Labour to force vote on renationalising ScotRail

The motion is being brought by Labour, which argue that under the terms of the Scottish government’s agreement with the train operator Abellio, the SNP can exercise an opportunity in 2020 to end the franchise by its first expiry date in 2022.

The operator has come under increasing criticism after being given a 'licence to fail' according to Labour and rail unions, with Transport Secretary Michael Matheson allowing ScotRail to break several key performance standards.

The Scottish Government has so far refused to use the clause to end the contract, despite former Transport Minister Humza Yousaf pledging to draw up a public sector bid after Abellio’s repeatedly poor performance.

ScotRail has missed 15 out of its 38 targets between April and June, and was recently fined £2.2m for its lackluster performance in the first six months of the year.

If ScotRail were brought back into public ownership it would join the London North Eastern Railway and Northern Irish Rail as the third publicly owned rail provider in the UK.

“Passengers across Scotland are fed up with overcrowded, overpriced and late running trains. It’s time to hit the brakes on privatisation and bring our railways back into public ownership." said Labour's Colin Smyth.

“The SNP claimed that the Abellio contract would be a world leading deal – instead the government has shifted the goal posts on targets and given the franchise a licence to fail."

“For years the Nationalists have said they would work up a public sector bid, but that promise appears further behind schedule than the average train journey in Scotland. If the SNP was serious about a public sector bid it would be ready to step in at the first opportunity to end the franchise."

“On Wednesday Labour will make the case to end the franchise at the first opportunity, and accelerate the process for public ownership.”

TSSA Leader Manuel Cortes welcomed the news, adding:“It’s good to see Labour taking a lead where the SNP have failed. If this motion passes the Scottish Government will be obliged to do what we all know they need to do - operate the break clause and bring ScotRail back into public ownership. And if the SNP don’t deliver on the motion and finally relieve Scottish commuters of their rail misery they will pay for it at the next election."

“I hope that on Wednesday MSPs of all parties will set aside political dogma and vote with their consciences for what is best for commuters, casual rail users and taxpayers alike – a return to ScotRail being run in the public sector.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “We know performance is not where it should be – that is why ministers can and do hold Abellio ScotRail to account within the terms of the franchise agreement. This includes the ability to end the contract if its terms are not met and it is in the public interest to do so."

“ScotRail performance has remained consistently ahead of the GB average, but that GB average has got steadily worse since Network Rail moved timetable planning for Scotland to its Milton Keynes HQ in 2012. It is clear these essential railway functions must be devolved back to Scotland to allow any franchise operator to perform at its best.”

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