UK: A public sector body would be able to bid for future Scottish passenger franchises should it wish to do so, Scottish government Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure & Connectivity Michael Matheson confirmed on August 23.
Publicly-owned ferry and port operator David MacBrayne Ltd has confirmed its interest in exploring the possibility of a bid, the Scottish government said.
The Scottish government is responsible for awarding the ScotRail franchise which is currently operated by Abellio under a contract running for up to 10 years from April 2015, as well as the Caledonian Sleeper franchise which is held by Serco under a contract running to 2030.
UK public sector bids were not permitted at the time the two contracts were awarded, but the Scotland Act 2016 subsequently gave Scottish ministers the power to allow public sector bodies to bid for Scottish franchises.
‘Our consistent view over many years is that there ought to be a level playing field between the private and public sector in bidding for rail franchises’, said Matheson. ‘Identifying a public sector body to make a bid has not been easy. It was vital to consider a range of scenarios as we want to strengthen competition and achieve best value for the public purse, while delivering continuous service improvements.
‘It is important for any public sector bidder to have the appetite to bid; the capability and capacity to see the bid through; and the ability and resources to make the franchise a success.
‘It is also our view that the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish government should have full powers to consider all options for structuring our railways to meet Scotland's needs.’
The Scottish government said future franchise competitions would ‘continue to be fair and transparent, giving equal treatment to all bidders whether from the public or private sectors.’