ScotRail services will be taken into public ownership from next year, it has been confirmed.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson announced in Holyrood that the nation’s rail service would by run by an arm’s length company, owned and controlled by the Scottish Government, from March next year.
He also said that work was under way to put in place further “emergency measures agreements” (EMAs) for ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper franchises for the period from April 1 until September this year.
The Scottish Government had previously announced that a so-called “break clause” would be used to end the Abellio franchise three years earlier than expected, in 2022.
Mr Matheson said the government’s move aimed to provide a “stable platform for ScotRail services and certainty for passengers and staff”.
Mr Matheson said: “We have for some time been considering the full range of options available under that framework for continuing services beyond the franchise expiry.
“Following a detailed assessment process and given the uncertainty caused by Covid-19, alongside the continuing delays to the UK Government White Paper on rail reform, I have decided that it would not be appropriate to award a franchise agreement to any party at this time, either through a competition or a direct award.
“That is why I have confirmed that, from the expiry of the current franchise, ScotRail services will be provided in public hands through a company wholly owned and controlled by the Scottish Government.
“ScotRail staff will transfer to the new Scottish Government-owned entity, with their terms and conditions protected.
“This approach will provide a stable platform for ScotRail services and certainty for passengers and staff.”
‘Just the first step’
Scottish Greens transport spokesperson John Finnie said: “Greens have long called for public ownership of our railways, so we welcome this progress from the Scottish Government.
“Given Wales brought railways into public ownership last year, this has been a long time coming.
“Nationalisation of services is just the first step towards a greener, integrated public transport system which serves communities, not shareholders.”
Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Alex Rowley said: “It is welcome news that the SNP have finally seen the light and decided that nationalisation of our railways is the best way forward.
“When SNP ministers awarded the contract to Abellio they told us we would have world-leading services but for far too many that was not the experience. So rail users have been let down and Scotland has been let down in yet another failure from this SNP government.”
Scottish Conservative shadow transport secretary Graham Simpson said: “The SNP Government must be entirely honest about how much this will cost taxpayers and clear about what demonstrable benefits it is expected to bring to passengers.
“While the primary consideration is for Scotland to be served by a modern and efficient rail service, public finances are precious and finite.
“The SNP have presided over decline of our railway, but history tells us that nationalising certain industries is rarely a silver bullet and can in fact turn out to be a costly mistake which is later reversed.”