Outcry as ScotRail 'goes Dutch'

Current operator FirstGroup is expected to lose the franchise to rail operator Abellio

Updated: 
Scotrail

A union has reacted with fury to reports that a Dutch firm will be awarded the next £2.5billion ScotRail franchise.

Current operator FirstGroup is expected to lose the franchise to rail operator Abellio, an offshoot of Dutch national railways, the Scotsman reported.

The contract is to run most of Scotland's trains for the next decade from April 2015. FirstGroup was said to have been among five shortlisted bidders for the deal.

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'Scandalous' development

Neither Transport Scotland nor ScotRail would comment on the reports last night. Transport Minister Keith Brown is due to announce a "major Scottish transport development" today.

But rail union RMT reacted furiously to the "scandalous" development, saying it represented a missed opportunity to bring the franchise back into public ownership.

Union bosses described the reported move as a "disgraceful and shameful betrayal of the Scottish people" soon after the referendum vote and said the whole franchising process should have been put on hold for now.

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'A denied opportunity'

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "It is scandalous that just a few weeks after the referendum, and promises from all quarters that the Scottish people would have an increased say in every aspect of their lives, that the continued privatisation of Scotland's railways has been bulldozed through with the SNP colluding with the political elite in Westminster to deny the opportunity for this franchise to be brought back into public ownership.

"There is no question that this whole franchising process could and should have been halted, pending the ratification of the post referendum devolution settlement, instead of rushing headlong into a deal that will deny the Scottish people ownership and control of their railways for many years to come.

"Scotland could have taken control of its own railways, instead they have opted to go Dutch, meaning that profits will be sucked out of the system to underpin investment and fares in Holland.

"It is a disgraceful and shameful betrayal of the Scottish people and makes a mockery of promises made both before and immediately after the referendum vote. RMT will continue the fight for public ownership with every means at our disposal. "

'It should be our public sector'

Patrick Harvie, Green Party MSP for Glasgow and transport spokesman for the Scottish Greens, called on ministers to give an assurance over the new ScotRail franchise.

He said: "It would be ironic to have a Dutch national railway company taking over most of Scotland's trains. While it would be great to see public transport run by a public sector firm it should be our public sector.

"There's huge public appetite for bringing rail back into public hands. We need an assurance from the Transport Minister that the optional five year break in the ScotRail franchise will allow for a Scottish public sector operator to bid, assuming power is devolved from Westminster to allow it."

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