Abellio accepts ScotRail failings but apportions blame to government contract
Abellio has insisted it has “no problem” with competing for a public sector body for the ScotRail franchise, but emphasised that regardless of what type of operator runs the franchise, they still do it to a “tightly specified” contract determined by ministers.
The company’s claims came after the Scottish transport minister, Humza Yousaf, suggested that the ScotRail could lose its contract if its performance doesn’t improve. He warned there could be “very, very serious consequences” if Abellio fails to fix problems with ScotRail’s performance, and said he would be tracking the franchise’s performance daily.
Abellio has issued an improvement plan to try to resolve the problems on ScotRail, but the Scottish government has said it stands ready to take over the franchise through a new public sector body if either it or the operator decides to terminate the contract.
Responding to Yousaf’s remarks today, Charlotte Twyning, director of policy, strategy and communications for Abellio UK, said: “There is nothing new in discussions about a public sector bid for Scotland’s railways, and we have no problem competing with public bids.”
While she did acknowledge ScotRail Alliance’s performance wasn’t good enough, Twyning also apportioned blame to the other parties.
“It should be recognised that half of the rail industry is already nationalised in the form of Network Rail and any operator that runs the ScotRail franchise - public or private - does so to a tightly specified Scottish government contract, which means that ministers set fares and essentially determine how many seats are available and therefore how much overcrowding exists across the network,” she added.
“We acknowledge that the performance of the ScotRail Alliance is not good enough, but we are working hard with our clients – Transport Scotland and the Scottish government – to make the changes necessary to improve the service to rail passengers. We are also encouraging Network Rail in particular to raise its game.
“However, rail passengers are better served by organisations and individuals collaborating in customers’ interests and not their own, and we encourage all parties to do so.”
Today, rail union RMT revealed it has written to Yousaf requesting “urgent talks” on a plan to bring ScotRail into public ownership.
Earlier this month, the minister also called for Network Rail in Scotland to be devolved after an independent report criticised it for allowing crucial improvement projects to go over budget.
(Image c. Danny Lawson from PA Images)
Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here.