Posted 1st April 2022 | 7 Comments

End of an era as ScotRail leaves private sector

Trains run by the public sector have returned to the domestic network in Scotland for the first time since March 1997, after the Abellio contract with the Scottish Government ended at 02.00 this morning.

The RMT has called for Caledonian Sleeper, which is run by Serco, to be taken back into public ownership as well.

The first ScotRail franchise, owned by National Express, started operating at the end of that month, but history was reversed early today as Abellio was forced to relinquish what could have been a 12-year contract from 2015.

Continuing performance problems strained the relationship between Abellio and the Scottish Government, and the Government announced on 18 December 2019 that the operation would be terminated on 31 March 2022, by taking advantage of a break point in the contract.

On 17 March 2021 the Government said the termination of the Abellio contract at the end of March 2022 would not be followed by a replacement franchise or a direct award. Instead, ScotRail is being operated by a new company owned by the Scottish Government, and has effectively been renationalised.

The RMT union is calling for the remaining Scottish operating contract to be ended as well. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Internal documents confirm that not only does the Scottish Government have the necessary structures in place to bring the Caledonian Sleeper into public ownership, it would only take around 12 weeks to do so.

'RMT is demanding that the Scottish Government cut ties with Serco and deploys the necessary arrangements to bring the Caledonian Sleeper into public ownership as a matter of urgency. This is the best way to provide value for money and stability for Scottish passengers and taxpayers and ensure that all revenue is reinvested in improving the network, rather than being paid out in fees.'

ScotRail will join three former English franchises which have already returned to the public sector. They are LNER, Northern and most recently Southeastern. Transport for Wales Rail has also become a publicly owned operation, although it does include a partnership between TfW, Keolis and Amey.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    Mrs Danby highlights the problem for "other operators"to be sidelined at stations that are run by a single operating company. Whilst minor stations that receive, perhaps only trains from a single TOC are not a problem, it would seem odd that stations such as Crewe and Milton Keynes Central are in this situation. Here at MK, the staion is run by London Northwestern, resulting in inadequate facilities for passengers on longer distance Avanti services.
    [It is not only 'minor' National Rail stations which are served by one TOC: London Liverpool Street, for example? In any case, any problems which arise from the 'station facility operator' system will be ended when GBR takes over the management of them all -- in England, at least.--Ed.]

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    I have at times wondered to what extent the economics of overnight / sleeper trains in GB might be improved if the rolling stock could be utilised on a"round the clock" basis.

    Could it be feasible for overnight / sleeping services to gain a daytime run, returning back to their originating station? The modern rolling stock ,from reclining seats to "roomettes" and full sleeping compartments might be relevant to daytime use.

    This could easily be done on the London to Glasgow , Edinburgh and Penzance routes. Aberdeen ,Inverness and Ft William are less obvious, with shorter turnaround times that would be necessary. Nevertheless, the new rolling stocks' depreciation would be spread across a lot more passenger- miles than at present.

  • Mrs. Kathleen Danby, Kirkwall, Orkney

    Love the comment about CalMac on wheels. I would also liken them to Stagecoach. What a shambles!!!

    I use the Caledonian Sleeper often. I like certain features of the new rolling stock, but the Lounge Car - or Club Car, as they now like to call it - is an abomination, and completely soulless.

    Since Avanti took over at Crewe Station, they have virtually shunted the Sleeper into the sidings. The First Class Lounge, which was readily available for passengers waiting for the northbound Sleeper, now closes at 18:00 and the only waiting area is the waiting room on platform 6. I recently spent over two hours in this waiting room. It has two enormous heaters on the wall. Both were full on, but on an extremely cold March evening, the door had been propped open, making the warmth of the heaters virtually useless. Is this Avanti's idea of saving money? Come back Virgin Trains - all is forgiven!!!!!!

  • Andrew, Glasgow

    Serco advertised Caledionian sleepers as at 5 star rating. After redesigning the set up, in a cost saving exercise :This turned out to be a 2 star rating. Unfortunatly keeping the 400 GBP for one way premium tag. This is not how to run a public service. It is an essential service thet serves the north of scotland with an early morning passenger service and also caters for those unable to fly. It s impossible to limit a private companies profits, but we have to subsidise it whether it has profits or has losses. If they want to run it as a not for profit public service go ahead, if not step aside and let others do so.

  • Andrew Gwilt, Benfleet Essex

    So it’s the end of Abellio ScotRail. Just like what happened with First ScotRail. Only to see the ScotRail logo brand and livery to remain as they are.

  • Stephen Dearden, New Mills

    One hopes an academic institution or think tank will carry out an evaluation of the relative efficiencies of the Scottish, Welsh and English railway administrative structures to inform the privatisation/public ownership debate. The government commissioned reviews were always compromised by their ideologically driven constraints.

  • Gordon S Valentine, Stamford

    The SNP have showing again, again they can't run things! It will go down hill and fast!