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Scottish government publishes ScotRail franchise details

Five bidders have been issued with a draft Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the next ScotRail franchise, transport minister Keith Brown has announced.

Abellio, Arriva, FirstGroup, MTR, and National Express have until next spring to submit their full proposals and a winning bidder will be announced in autumn 2014. The next franchise begins in April 2015.

Details of the franchise include keeping commuters peak time fares in line with inflation, faster services and better wi-fi access across the network. This includes 42-minute services between Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as accelerated services to Stirling, Perth, Dundee, Inverness and Aberdeen.

Off-peak fares will be limited to RPI-1, new electric trains will be introduced, and improved facilities for cycling will be provided at stations.

The successful bidder will work with Transport Scotland, regional transport partnerships and other public transport providers to increase the use of smart ticketing, ensure all direct employees earn at least the Living Wage, and that each train has at least two members of staff onboard.

The franchisee will also be required to introduce apprenticeship schemes for over 100 people in customer service and engineering.

Brown said: “Improving the passenger experience has been at the heart of our considerations for the next franchise and the specification I have set out is focused on innovation, connectivity, value and benefit for communities throughout Scotland.

“Unlike previous DfT led procurements which have focused on price, the ScotRail franchise competition includes a heavy emphasis on quality. 35% of the evaluation marks are available for improvements to current services reflecting the rail priorities which the people of Scotland have told us are important. Bidders for this franchise must commit to ambitious improvements if they want to win.

“The new contract will ensure an improved service for commuters, disabled passengers who wish to travel more spontaneously than current provisions allow, tourists and cyclists as well as a better deal all round for all those using our railways.

“We expect the franchisee, working closely with Network Rail, to deliver operational efficiencies, to take an innovative approach to areas such as wi-fi and smart ticketing and, importantly, protect the interests of passengers when capital improvements, such as the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Project, are being made.”

The Scottish Association for Public Transportation (SAPT) chairman Dr John McCormick welcomed the focus on faster journey times, better trains and provision for cyclists.

He said: “The short-listed bidders have extensive experience of running "metro style" operations worldwide and we expect that this will bring new ideas for integrated transport in Scottish cities.

“The franchise requirement to attract greater use of Scotland's rural lines will boost Scotland's tourist industry and will protect the future of scenic routes like the West Highland, Kyle and Stranraer lines. The Border rail link will further increase rail tourism potential when it opens in 2015.”

And the South East of Scotland Transport Partnership (SEStran) chair, Cllr Russell Imrie said the tender process represented “a fresh start” for Scotland’s rail services.

“Emphasis should be placed upon making the existing ticketing system simpler and developing a properly integrated ticketing system in the longer term. We would also like to see the introduction of higher quality rolling stock and more attention paid to provision for cyclists.”

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