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Scottish government set to reward ScotRail failure

Scottish Government set to reward failure and give Abellio a free ride to continue operating the ScotRail franchise from 2022.

RAIL UNION RMT today expressed its concern that the Scottish Government’s proposed revised ‘Franchising Policy Statement’ is laying the groundwork to give Dutch state-owned Abellio a direct award when the franchise ends next year, despite its well documented poor performance, rather than using its powers to take its rail services into public ownership.

As the consultation on the Franchising Policy Statement closes, it is clear the Statement reflects the Scottish Government’s intention to extend Abellio’s tenure. The Statement sets out a vast number of circumstances in which ‘the Scottish Ministers may decide to directly award a franchise agreement’ rather than tendering the franchise or taking it into public ownership via the Operator of Last Resort (OLR).

In contrast, earlier this week, Wales’ rail passenger services transferred into public ownership, as the Welsh Government has recognised that this is the most effective way to provide stability to the rail network in the face of ongoing Covid-19 uncertainty.

RMT believes that it would provide far greater value for money for passengers and taxpayers and provide greater resilience for Scotland’s rail network if the Scottish Government stopped making excuses and instead used its existing powers to take control of Scotland’s rail passenger services.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“It is frankly unbelievable that the Scottish Government is poised to reward failure and give Abellio a free ride carrying operating rail services in Scotland.

“In the same week that the Government in Wales has taken rail services back into public ownership the Scottish government is once against showing its biased in favour of the privatised railway.

“The Scottish Government already has the powers to take its rail passenger services into public ownership, via the Operator of Last Resort yet it keeps making excuses not to.

“In response to a Freedom of Information case The Scottish Government has also refused to publish its response to the UK Government’s Williams Review of Rail, choosing instead to hide behind a veil of secrecy.

“This lack of transparency just reinforces RMT’s concerns that it opposed to public ownership of Scotland’s railways, despite this being the best way to deliver a resilient, cost-effective and reliable service.

“We need action, not more excuses, from the Scottish Government.”

Photo credit: RMT / Scotrail

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