UK: The Abellio subsidiary of Dutch national passenger operator NS has been awarded the next ScotRail franchise, the Scottish Government announced on October 8. Abellio is to take over from current franchisee FirstGroup on April 1 2015.

The franchise covers almost all internal passenger services within Scotland, and will run for a minimum of seven years, with an option to extend the term to 10 years by mutual consent after five years. The new franchise includes:

  • 'Transformation' of inter-city services with the introduction of 27 refurbished HST trainsets by December 2018;
  • 80 new trains for the Edinburgh - Glasgow corridor due to arrive by December 2017;
  • Enhanced catering;
  • Free wi-fi on all trains;
  • Abellio's Dutch experience will support a 'new approach to cycling', including a £1·6m investment in 3 500 parking spaces, staffed Cyclepoints at city hubs and Cycleparks+ at five stations, and a £3·80/day Bike&Go cycle hire scheme at 10 stations;
  • More through rail bus, sea and air ticketing, reduced fares for jobseekers, carnet tickets and starting prices for advance fares between any two Scottish cities of £5 for standard and £7·50 for first class;
  • A Great Scenic Railway scheme to attract more tourists to the north, southwest and Borders;
  • Shopping developments at Aberdeen and Inverness stations;
  • Stations2Stations business centres to facilitate working at stations;
  • A 'true deep alliance' with infrastructure manager Network Rail;
  • £1m community rail programme, including 10 to 15 new Community Rail Partnerships;
  • No compulsory redundancies throughout the life of the contract;
  • An employee gain share scheme;
  • At least 100 apprenticeships;
  • Optional lifestyle checks and flu vaccines for frontline staff, with health trainers to assist with stress management, nutrition, exercise and stopping smoking;
  • Guaranteed trade union representation on every franchise board meeting.

'Abellio is delighted and incredibly excited to have been given this opportunity to manage Scotland's national rail network', said Jeff Hoogesteger, CEO of Abellio Group. 'For two years our team has been on a journey across Scotland and met people from the Borders, across the seven cities and to the very peak of the Far North Line so that we could prepare a plan that would meet and exceed the expectations of the Scottish Government.'

Arriva, MTR Corp and National Express had also pre-qualified for the contract, as well as FirstGroup which has operated the franchise since 2004.

Saying he was disappointed not to win the new contract, FirstGroup CEO Tim O'Toole said it 'does not alter the Group's stated medium-term targets'. FirstGroup is 'actively participating in franchise competitions with the objective of achieving earnings on a par with the last round of franchising, with an acceptable level of risk. We are in negotiations with the Department for Transport to operate the First TransPennine Express franchise until February 2016, and continue discussions with the DfT in respect of a potential longer direct award to operate First Great Western, our largest franchise, over the period when a substantial programme of infrastructure upgrades and introduction of new trains will take place on the network.'


  • 2 300 services/day
  • 86·3 million passenger-journeys/year (2013-14), up 34% since 2004.
  • 44·4 million train-km/year (2012-13)
  • 427 EMU and 369 DMU vehicles leased
  • 351 stations (including five managed separately)