Petition launched for ‘People’s ScotRail’ as prices set to rise as service quality declines

Ben Wray

Kids Go Free Scheme also set to be scrapped

THE head of the TSSA railways union has said “passengers deserve better than higher prices for worse services”, as it launches a petition for public ownership of ScotRail.

The petition was created as it was announced that rail prices are set to rise with the RPI rate of inflation of 3.1 per cent in the new year, despite what the union calls “the worst year of service to Scotland’s rail passengers in ScotRail’s privatised history”.

Rail services, which are run by Dutch state-owned Abellio, have been hit with continual problems this year, with punctuality falling to its lowest level since 2005 and reliability to a 20 year low.

An FoI request revealed last week that ScotRail has paid out 65,000 delay & repay requests between January-September this year.

READ MORE: TSSA warns of ‘Winter of Discontent’ as Holyrood votes against ScotRail nationalisation

In October, new Transport Secretary Michael Matheson issued a waiver for Abellio’s legally-binding performance targets until June 2019, citing UK Government controlled Network Rail’s infrastructure projects which were effecting the company’s ability to meet punctuality and reliability targets. TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes described this decision as a “license to fail”, and called on Matheson to resign for no announcing the decision to the Scottish Parliament.

In November, the SNP voted down a motion tabled by Scottish Labour for the Scottish Government to press ahead with a break clause in the rail franchise contract which would see Abellio’s contract ending in 2022, three years earlier than its due to finish.

TSSA leader Manuel Cortes said of the “#ScotFail” petition: “Passengers deserve better than higher prices for worse services. But the SNP is washing its hands of passenger needs and working under the Matheson regime in the Dutch company interest rather than for the Scottish public he’s elected to serve.

“The SNP committed to a public bid for the ScotRail franchise in their 2016 manifesto. Sadly, it has become clear they have no intention of delivering that and Minister Matheson is showing that he will let Abellio off the hook for continuing failing passengers.

READ MORE: Give Scotrail back to the public: Cross-party support emerges for railway reform after major report

“Abellio failed its franchise obligations, – Matheson gave them a waiver on their targets. At a debate on using the break clause in the contract on 14 November the SNP sided with the Tories to vote the motion down – on the same day ScotRail admitted needing a £23million bailout from next year’s budget!

“They’ve had two years to make plans for ScotRail’s nationalisation but all Matheson has done since he took office has been to look for excuses to get out of it.”

Abellio also announced its Kids Go Free scheme, which allows up to two children to be taken on return train journeys for free, will be brought to an end next year, with adults set to be charged £1 for every child which accompanies them, bringing Scotland into line with English child fare policy on the railways.

Scottish Labour’s transport spokesperson, Colin Smyth MSP, said:

“With Christmas less than a few weeks away it is sad to see bosses at ScotRail acting like Scrooge by taking free rail travel away from children across Scotland.

READ MORE: Green MSP questions Scot Gov commitment to public rail bid after assurance of ‘equal treatment’ to private sector

“The Kids Go Free scheme is a fantastic initiative which encourages families to use public transport and not be out of pocket for doing so.

“This rip-off fare rise will see passengers handing out even more money to a private company which is failing them time and time again.

“I hope ScotRail see sense and give our children the gift of free rail travel for another year this Christmas.”

The Common Weal think tank published a report in 2017 arguing public ownership of Scotland’s railways could see an immediate 6 per cent reduction in ticket prices from a public sector operator, simply by re-investing profits into reducing fares.

To sign the TSSA petition, click here.

Picture courtesy of Tom Parnell