ScotRail train

UK: ScotRail transferred to public ownership on April 1, with the 04.56 Inverness – Edinburgh train being the first service operated by ScotRail Trains Ltd, an arm’s length company owned and controlled by the Scottish government.

The Scottish government had decided it would not to award another contract after the franchise held by Abellio expired on March 31, and so services transferred to the Scottish government’s operator of last resort under section 30 of the Railways Act 1993.

Passenger services in Wales and Northern Ireland are also operated by public sector companies, while in England the UK Department for Transport’s operator of last report runs Southeastern, Northern and LNER services.

ScotRail Trains Ltd

ScotRail Trains Ltd is owned and overseen by Scottish Rail Holdings Ltd, a non-departmental public body which is wholly owned by the Scottish government and controlled by Scottish ministers.

SRH acts as the owning group of the operating company and provides separation between Transport Scotland as the strategic policymaker and the direct management of train services by ScotRail Trains.

ScotRail staff have transferred to ScotRail Trains on their existing terms, and services will continue to be branded as ScotRail.

ScotRail operates around 2 400 train services/day and carries more than 93 million passenger-journeys/year.

Industry response

ScotRail First Minister and Alex Hynes

Speaking at Glasgow Queen Street station, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said ‘everyone involved has worked extremely hard to deliver the smooth transition of ScotRail into public control and ownership. This new beginning creates a real opportunity to deliver a railway which is for the nation, and fully focused on being run for the benefit of its users — customers, staff and stakeholders, as opposed to shareholders.’

General Secretary of the TSSA trade union Manuel Cortes said that ‘April 1 marks a positive milestone in the changing ownership of our rail services, and the government should wake up to the reality that rail services run better in public ownership.’

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said public ownership was something the union had long campaigned for, and ‘the Scottish government now has the opportunity to break with the past and instead recognise the central role ScotRail has to play in meeting its climate change targets and invest in creating an affordable, accessible, reliable and improved rail network in Scotland.’

RMT repeated its call for the Caledonian Sleeper services to follow ScotRail into the public sector. The night train services are currently operated by Serco under a Temporary Measures Agreement which runs to March 31 2023. ‘Internal documents confirm that not only does the Scottish government have the necessary structures in place to bring the Caledonian Sleeper into public ownership, it would only take around 12 weeks to do so’, said Lyn