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Scot Rail & the 1993 Railways Act

Labour attack on ScotRail franchise decision comes off the rails

 13 October 2014

SNP MSP for Glasgow, Bob Doris, today hailed the decision to award the new ScotRail franchise to nationalised Dutch firm Abellio.

The announcement last Wednesday will see a huge range of benefits to travellers in Glasgow and across Scotland, as well as creating jobs and offering a better deal to the workforce.

Bob also responded to Labour’s criticism that the franchise should not have gone to a firm outside Scotland, pointing out that this had never been Labour policy until after the outcome was known.

In addition, the Scottish Government are bound by legislation to award the contract to the best-value bidder, and Labour have consistently opposed all moves to give the Scottish Government discretion in this area.

On the decision to award the new franchise to Abellio, Bob said: “Abellio put in a strong bid which will be of great benefit to rail travellers.

It includes a £5 rate for advance rail tickets between cities, reduced ticket prices for jobseekers, increase capacity on the rail network and a modernisation of our rolling stock.

“It is also an excellent result for workers. ScotRail staff will be paid at least the living wage, trade unions will be represented on the board, and around 200 jobs will come to Glasgow as Abellio relocates its head office.

“There is also a possible break in the franchise after five years, should the UK Government grant Scotland the power to give priority to a Scottish publicly-owned operator.”

On Labour’s call for the franchise to be delayed, Bob said: “The Scottish Government is bound by the 1993 Railways Act to award the franchise to the bidder who offer the best value to the public.

“On several occasions, Labour rejected Scottish Government calls for powers over rail procurement to be devolved to Scotland.

As usual, Labour have waited to see what the result of the bid will be and then criticised it in hindsight, rather than making constructive suggestions ahead of the decision.

Now they say that the process should be halted on the basis that some new powers might come Scotland’s way at an undetermined time in the future.

“If they had their way, we would delay a series of benefits to passengers and leave the Scottish Government open to compensation claims for breach of contract, risking tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.”

Notes:

  • In the March 2014 report from their Devolution Commission, Labour supported the existing bidding process and said that any possible move to public ownership should take place only “after the end of the new franchise starting in 2015”: i.e. no sooner than 2025 – http://s.bsd.net/scotlab/default/page/file/84d4333200cc733f2c_61m6b23i3.pdf
  • The new franchise contains a number of improvements – for passengers and staff.
  • Franchises are awarded on the basis of a competitive tendering process in which Ministers are not involved. The Scottish Government set very high standards for the process to achieve benefits for passengers, staff and taxpayers.
  • Improvements for passengers –
    • Fares to rise at inflation or less.
    • free wifi on all trains
    • new approach to cycling with more than 3,500 parking spaces and bike-hire at a number of stations.
    • 23% more carriages across the network,
    • reduced fares for jobseekers,
    • high-speed intercity diesel trains, with over a third more seats,
    • advance fares of £5 between any two Scottish cities,
    • Great Scenic Railway scheme bringing more tourists to the north, the south west and the Borders,
    • major shopping developments at the stations at Aberdeen and Inverness.
  • Improvements for staff:
    • commitment to earnings of at least the living wage for all staff and subcontractors (including hospitality and caterers).
    • at least 100 apprenticeships,
    • guarantee of no compulsory redundancies throughout the life of the contract,
    • rail staff pensions and travel rights protected,
    • introduction of guaranteed trade union representation on every franchise Board meeting.

Transport campaign organisation “Transform Scotland” welcomed the award of the contract to Abellio. Paul Tetlaw, Transform Scotland spokesperson said: “We are pleased to see that many of the improvements that we had called for are specified in the new franchise.

However, there will need to be serious investment in the inter-city routes and it is imperative that the Scottish Government now comes forward with detailed plans for infrastructure enhancements.

If the train is indeed to compete with the car then we need to see the same level of ambition for the railway that the Government clearly demonstrates for roads.”

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