CalMac model said to be among the options that Scottish Government is investigating for returning Scotland’s railway to public ownership


scotrail_living_wageHumza Yousaf (centre) pictured earlier this month with Phil Verster, MD of ScotRail Alliance (left), to mark Living Wage Week 2016


Scottish Government ministers are said to be “preparing the ground” for introducing some form of public ownership in the event that they proceed with their threat to strip Abellio of the ScotRail contract if it fails to improve performance.

According to The Sunday Herald, ministers are looking at the model used for state-owned ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne. Since 2006, CalMac has operated as a subsidiary of David MacBrayne Ltd, whose sole shareholders are Scottish ministers.

A source close to the Scottish Government is reported to have said last week that transport minister Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s minister for transport and the islands, was now of the view that a move towards public ownership as soon as possible was preferable. Advice is now being sought as to how this could happen, and “CalMac is the model that’s being looked at”.

“We have put in place measures to ensure we are fulfilling our Railways Act obligation of securing ongoing rail functions, as the operator of last resort, should a franchise terminate early, for any reason, and not be replaced,” a spokesman said.

The Scottish Government has previously resisted calls for public ownership, suggesting that devolved powers do not exist to facilitate this aim. Meanwhile, officials are also understood to be examining how a public sector body could bid in future Scottish rail franchise competitions, in line with powers that will be devolved to Holyrood.

The move towards some form of state ownership follows the news last month that the ScotRail Alliance has been fined £483,000 for failing to meet required standards for trains and stations.

Commenting on Twitter, Michael Holden, the former chief executive of ‘operator of last resort’ Directly Operated Railways, said: “They’ll find it harder when there’s no one else to blame.”


This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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