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FirstGroup loses ScotRail franchise to Abellio

Abellio, the Dutch passenger transport group, has been awarded the next ScotRail franchise by Transport Scotland. 

The company will replace FirstGroup, which has been running the franchise for the last 10 years, as operator when the new franchise, worth up to £6bn, starts on 1 April 2015. 

As part of the deal, Abellio has committed to investing millions of pounds in providing improved service and bringing new trains into operation between Edinburgh and Glasgow as part of the EGIP (Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme).

This includes eighty new trains due to arrive at the start of December 2017; free wi-fi capability throughout all carriages; and enhanced catering service for passengers. 

Transport minister Keith Brown announced the competition franchise win, which will run for 10 years. However, there is a provision for the government to cancel the contract after five years, if Abellio do not meet its commitments. 

Abellio had been competing against FirstGroup, Arriva, MTR, and National Express for the right to run ScotRail. 

Brown said: “The Scottish government believes good public transport improves the lives of the people and the economy of Scotland. Following extensive consultation by the Scottish government, Scotland’s railway has attracted a world leading contract to deliver for rail staff and passengers. 

“We’ve already ensured that regulated rail fares will stay in line with inflation or less, and Abellio has come up with some truly innovative ways to make rail even more affordable, such as the £5 intercity fare anywhere in Scotland and reduced ticket prices for jobseekers and those newly in work, as well as a Price Promise for guaranteed best value fares.” 

As well as the new trains, Abellio has promised to provide 23% more carriages across the network, reduced fares for jobseekers, high-speed intercity diesel trains – with over a third more seats, and advance fares starting at £5 between any two Scottish cities. 

For staff  it has given a commitment for all staff and subcontractors to be earning in a “living wage”, at least 100 apprenticeships, a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies throughout the life of the contract, protecting rail staff pensions and travel rights, and  the introduction of guaranteed trade union representation on every franchise board meeting. 

Jeff Hoogesteger, CEO of Abellio Group, said: “This is a huge day for Abellio and indeed the Netherlands which has such a rich history of commercial and cultural trade with Scotland. Abellio is delighted and incredibly excited to have been given this opportunity to manage Scotland’s national rail network.

“For two years our team has been on a journey across Scotland and met people from the Borders, across the seven cities and to the very peak of the Far North Line so that we could prepare a plan that would meet and exceed the expectations of the Scottish government.” 

FirstGroup stated that it was disappointed to lose the franchise, which it has operated since 2004. During that time, the company has invested more than £82m, including station improvements of £56m and improvements to rolling stock of £26.3m. 

Tim O’Toole, FirstGroup’s chief executive, said: “We have kept our promises and more for ten years, delivering record levels of service including during this extraordinary summer in Scotland with the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup. 

“Our bid would have delivered even greater levels of service and growth, and we are disappointed we will not have the opportunity to implement the credible plans we submitted, building on our record of improvement across every measurable score, for the benefit of ScotRail's passengers and employees.” 

He added that FirstGroup will continue to operate First ScotRail until the new franchise commences on 1 April 2015. Until that time the company will deliver further enhancements to trains and stations, the extension of smart ticketing across the whole country and the opening of the Borders Railway next year. 

(Image: c. Alex Drennan) 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Kevin   11/10/2014 at 13:31

well sad first rail has lost the franchise but not surprised the when you ignore the customers complaints and and health and safety of over crowding carriages like most train users we welcome ABellio and hope they listen to there customers and also the way first rail do interviews is a disgrace step one fill in application form 2 fill in assesment 3 phone call interview were the person cant understand you so you fail 4 if your are really lucky another interview then you have to wait a month or more for the outcome yet you gave them all the answers in your first application once again a waste of tax payers money and unfair for many people. dont the people running first rail not realise health and safety is all about common sense and awareness lets hope aBellio do not make some of first rail bosses reapply for there position dont think they will pass the first assesment never mind get reinstated well i wish aBellio well and the bosses of the late first rail and may be you have all learned a costly lesson

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