Fares, rail policy and DfT news

27.03.19

Transport secretary threatens ScotRail with franchise termination if it misses improvement targets

The Scottish transport secretary has warned ScotRail could be stripped of its franchise if it fails to meet the targets of its remedial plan as the operator’s managing director tells MSPs that services could get worse.

Under-fire train operator ScotRail submitted its £18m improvement plan on Monday after Transport Scotland issued it with a second remedial plan notice for failing to meet contractual targets.

Now, the transport secretary Michael Matheson has told a Holyrood committee that ScotRail could be stripped of its franchise if it fails to meet the targets in the improvement plan.

Matheson said: “At that point the Scottish Government can consider termination, but the decision will be dependent on what the reason for the default is.

“If it becomes clear ScotRail is incapable of delivering on the contract, then we will look at termination.”

ScotRail Alliance’s managing director Alex Hynes also gave evidence on the company to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, and warned that despite progress there are “further challenges” down the line.

These include a lack of drivers and possible delays to receiving new rolling stock and Hynes said he was at the “mercy” of train suppliers.

He also confirmed to the MSPs that a target stating that 92.5% of services must run on time might not be reached until 2021.

Hynes said: “We must do much, much more to regain the trust of our customers but things are moving in the right direction.

“ScotRail will face further challenges throughout the course of 2019 – training new drivers takes 18 months in total.

“We remain at the mercy of our train suppliers who have let us down badly in the past.

“And although Network Rail is investing more than ever to prepare for the extremes of Scottish weather, its unpredictable nature will continue to significantly impact Scotland’s railway.”

Part of ScotRail’s improvement plan included hiring an extra 55 drivers and 30 conductors during 2019, as well as three additional high-speed trains being leased.

Hynes also revealed that ScotRail is seeking millions in compensation for the late delivery of new trains from train suppliers who he said have “failed badly.”

As well as warning ScotRail of “serious consequences” if it does not improve punctuality standards, Matheson also said the Scottish Government was to consider a public sector-run railway after complaining of having “one hand tied behind my back” without complete rail devolution.

Image credit - Thomas Feige

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