Interest grows in public sector bid for Scotland’s railways 


Neil Bibby MSP submits series of parliamentary questions on public sector railways proposals

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATIONS into a public sector bid for Scotland’s railways are expected to be published later this month after questions tabled at Holyrood by Labour’s Neil Bibby MSP. 

Preparatory work has begun within the Scottish Government civil service to consider whether a public sector bid to run the rail network would be feasible when the current Abelio tendering deal ends. 

The government has confirmed that the work is ongoing – but few deals have been released on its early finding or what the next stages of the project will be.

Bibby, a list MSP for the West of Scotland, will receive a reply by mid-November to detailed questions including what “preparatory work” has taken place, whether a subsidiary company has been established to make a public sector bid, whether a public consultation will take place, in what year of the current Abellio contract a “break clause” occurs for a new bidding process and how long a notice period is required before the break clause can be activated.

These specific answers will point towards how seriously the government is taking the opportunity to bring the railways back into a publicly owned company, which would benefit from having closer public oversight and having its profits reinvested within the rail system. 

“Scottish Labour wants to see a People’s ScotRail at the earliest opportunity so we can start putting passengers before private profit.” Neil Bibby

The SNP, during the 2016 election, highlighted that it would use new devolved powers to make a public sector bid possible.

Bibby told CommonSpace: “If the SNP Government are serious about a public sector bid to run our rail network then they should consult on their plans and provide regular updates on their work.
“Having failed to listen to alternatives when they agreed the franchise contract with Abellio in 2014, they must now be open and transparent about their plans for our railways if the public are to have confidence that they are doing everything they can to facilitate a public sector bid.
“Scottish Labour wants to see a People’s ScotRail at the earliest opportunity so we can start putting passengers before private profit.”

Recent figures highlighted widespread problems with Scotland’s train network – including frequent derails, overcrowding, and high prices. 

The Scottish Government said: “Using new powers awarded in March of this year, Transport Scotland officials have started the work necessary to fulfil the commitment to ensure that a public sector body is in a position to bid for the next franchise. 

“We will ensure that a public sector bidder is ready should either we or Abellio ScotRail take steps to invoke the break-point in the current contract.”

Picture courtesy of Derek Hoskins

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