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Nationalised ScotRail ‘could lead to instant 6% fare cut’

ScotRail could feasibly be nationalised by 2020, and doing so could give passengers an immediate 6% drop in fares, it has been claimed.

Data provided by think tank Common Weal – commissioned by transport union TSSA – suggests that handing the company into public control would offer year-on-year decreases in the price of tickets.

The union produced the information as its general secretary, Manuel Cortes, prepares to meet with Scottish transport secretary Humza Yousaf, who has previously suggested that the ScotRail franchise could be opened to public ownership if improvements were not made.

Yousaf made the comments following a plague of issues across Scottish services which caused delayed trains and disruption last year, although the problem has since been largely mitigated, as ScotRail Alliance boss Alex Hynes told RTM.

This week’s report suggests national control over the operator should be accompanied by terminating the current arrangements of carriages, which are leased from private firms, and have the stock owned and operated by national bodies.

Commenting on the investigation, Cortes said that Holyrood should take these findings as a call to action on nationalisation.

“Since 1997 several hundreds of millions of pounds has been drained out of ScotRail in profit depriving it of significant investment funds,” he explained. “Gaining control of those revenues means a real long-term strategic rail plan for Scotland can be developed in conjunction with wider with economic, social, industrial and environmental strategies.

“The report’s scope is on public ownership of ScotRail but its reach, if implemented, could be truly transformative for the whole of Scottish society.”

ScotRail is currently run by Abellio. The company has previously accepted its early operational criticism and produced a 249-point plan to implement the “immediate improvement” that Yousaf called for late last year.

An Abellio spokesman said: “We are investing £475 million in Scotland’s railways, the biggest investment since the Victorian era delivering more seats and faster journey times for passengers. 

“Much of the rail industry is already nationalised in the form of Network Rail, the infrastructure owner and the Scottish Government, who sets most of the fares. As we have indicated previously we have no problem competing with a public sector bid should that be what the Scottish Government decides to do.”

However, Robin McAlpine, director of Common Weal, argued: “It’s time to be honest about what the current arrangement for trains in Scotland means. Passengers pay a very large sum of money to pay for unnecessary tendering and shareholder profits to create the impression that there is a market in rail fares which is pushing down costs.

“But there isn’t a market in rail fares reducing costs, just one private monopoly for 10 years then another private monopoly for 10 years. Every time you spend 10 pounds to go by train in Scotland you have paid 65p purely to make a private profit for a private company which is already receiving the highest rail subsidy in Britain.

“It makes no sense whatsoever, unless you are a shareholder or a political ideologue. This report is a case study of political obsession being put before the interests of taxpayers or passengers.”

Top image: Andrew Bowden, Flickr

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J, Leicester   28/11/2017 at 13:34

Given that most Scottish services outside of the major conurbations are heavily subsidised and loss-making already, where is the money going to come from to pay for a fare reduction? And more importantly, does Holyrood even have the power to enact a two-tier national ticket pricing system? This all just sounds like wishful thinking from a thinktank buttered up by the SNP. Again.

Charmbrights   28/11/2017 at 13:37

When will rail operators and governments realise that most passengers do not want faster journey times as their first priority? What we want is to know when the train will reach its destination, that is punctuality so that I don't need to leave earlier than necessary to be sure of arriving at my destination in time for the meeting, kick off, wedding, funeral, etc.

Ian Watkins   28/11/2017 at 13:48

This assertion begs the question as to whether a State owned railway can operate at the same or lower cost than a private provider.

Got The T-Shirt, Glasgow   28/11/2017 at 14:15

Who in this story do you not like "J" (from Leicester) - The Common Weal, TSSA, the SNP, or just all of them. Please show some consideration for a bit of data analysis.

Tothehills   29/11/2017 at 09:34

This is an utter tosh story, all the report has done is remove the "profit" element of the railway, while maintaining the cost of the railway to the state! It would be far more sensible for the Scottish Tax payer to use the 6% to cross subsidize the loss making service (and essentially the decision any government would make). As far as I can see nationalizing the railways is probably not in the best interest of the railways and its associated industries; as when it comes to a choice of funding the NHS or funding the railways the NHS is always going to win. At least with a "Private" system someone can demand that money be spent to keep it in a decent shape.

Andrew Gwilt   29/11/2017 at 09:43

As long it won’t affect the introduction of Class 385’s EMU’s that will start passenger service from next year.

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