Abellio stripped of ScotRail contract after poor service

Abellio have come under fierce criticism.
Abellio have come under fierce criticism.

Fife MSPs have welcomed Abellio being stripped of the ScotRail contract, after years of poor service for rail travellers in Fife.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson confirmed on Wednesday that the Abellio ScotRail contract will come to an end early.

It is understood that Abellio wanted more funding for the remainder of their contract but the Scottish Government turned this request down.

Kirkcaldy SNP MSP David Torrance said: “I welcome his announcement. ScotRail’s service levels in Fife have improved recently, but for too long they have fallen well short of what my constituents are entitled to expect.

“I hope the Scottish Government will be able to have a public sector operator take over from Abellio in 2022.

“We also need to have control over the rail infrastructure in Scotland – the track, stations and signalling – which is currently operated UK wide by Network Rail.

“We must get rid of the inefficient and expensive piecemeal approach to delivery of this vital public service.”

Mid Scotland and Fife Labour MSP Claire Baker said: “The news that the Abellio ScotRail franchise will come to an end in 2022, while overdue, is welcome.

“For far too long passengers across Scotland have been subject to a sub-standard rail service.

“The current franchise remains in place for the next two years and it is critical that Abellio ScotRail is held to account and makes improvements over this time.”

Fife commuters continue to endure outdated stock, delays, cancellations and overcrowding on a daily basis. ScotRail has promised improvements on the Fife line on a number of occasions but has failed to deliver for passengers. With another price increase imminent, the level of service passengers are experiencing is simply unacceptable and must be addressed.”

The current franchise agreement requires Scottish Ministers and Abellio to revisit the level of government subsidy provided for the remaining 5 years of the contract and to determine whether additional subsidy should be paid. This is a process known as rebasing.

Following considerable analysis and careful consideration of the information provided by Abellio ScotRail, Ministers have decided that the significant increase in Government subsidy proposed would not secure delivery of commensurate benefits to passengers, communities and the economy.

Ministers have therefore served a No Rebasing Notice on Abellio ScotRail. As a result of this decision, existing Government subsidy levels remain in place and the franchise will come to an end early, currently expected to be March 2022.

Mr Matheson said: “Our rail network is of significant social, economic and environmental value to the people of Scotland, and Ministers must ensure that the services we secure are high performing, financially sustainable and offer value for money.

“We currently provide around two thirds of the running costs for our railway and it is essential that this is sustainable going forward. Our record investment in rail is already delivering more seats, more trains and more stations.

“Any changes to the level of subsidy paid by the government must deliver new benefits for passengers and taxpayers and whilst there have been improvements in recent years, the proposed changes were not sufficient to justify additional subsidy.

“Of course, the Scottish Government must plan for the future of our rail services, beyond 2022 and work is already underway to examine the options open to us in this regard.

“Longer term, this Government has already made clear its position that the current franchising regime, which is a matter reserved to the UK government, has failed and it is widely accepted that the rail industry, as a whole, must embrace reform.

“The best way to deliver this is through the transfer of all rail powers, which would allow us to work together to find the right solution for our railways in future – properly integrated and fully aligned with the public interest and Scottish Government policy.”

The rail industry is currently awaiting the outcome of the Williams Rail Review which is led by the UK Government.