Dutch group Abellio took over operation of Scotland’s railway on April 1, and revealed plans to overhaul its fleet and increase the use of smartcards


Pictured: Jeff Hoogesteger, CEO Abellio (left), and Derek Mackay, Scottish minister of transport, wave off a train as a symbolic start to the Abellio ScotRail franchise


Abellio has launched its new ScotRail franchise on April 1 with a £1m free ticket promotion, and set out further details of its plans to upgrade the fleet and encourage customers to switch to smartcards.

Initial fleet improvement plans for this year include ensuring a power socket is available on each row of seats on all trains, and providing onboard CCTV and LED lighting on all trains. Plans to extend the onboard Wi-Fi service from the current 18 routes to the entire franchise area by the end of 2018 include capability for online web streaming on seven designated ‘scenic routes’.

Full refurbishment of the trains on these routes will also include larger windows, table top maps, and more space for luggage and bikes. Onboard tourist information will be provided by staff who will be trained as ‘tourism ambassadors’.

The franchise is recruiting a tourism manager to work with Visit Scotland and the Scottish Tourism Alliance to promote rail tourism. Tourism initiatives will include offering a series of ScotRail steam services this summer.

Away from the scenic routes, Abellio said most fleets across the franchise will also have a full interior refurbishment, alongside previously announced plans to provide refurbished HSTs on Scotland’s intercity network and new trains on the Edinburgh-Glasgow route.

By summer 2017, Abellio expects to have fitted passenger counting equipment across its entire ScotRail fleet to help plan increases in capacity.

Extension of smart ticketing from the Edinburgh-Glasgow service and linked routes to Dunblane and Ayr is scheduled to start in the summer. Abellio is aiming for 60% of all ScotRail journeys to be made on smartcard tickets and has announced that the “best promotional offers and discounts will appear exclusively on smartcards” to encourage customers to switch from paper tickets.

Initial incentives for smartcard season ticket holders will include 33% off the price of standard
off-peak single and return tickets; and £5 First Class upgrades for off-peak travel on their usual season ticket route. The discounts will also be available to three adults travelling with the smart ticket holder.

In addition, smartcards will be sent to all monthly and annual season ticket holders on smart-enabled routes along with information on how to renew their ticket on the card should they wish to do so.

Plans to develop smart ticketing and integrated journeys include developing the system so tickets for car parking and cycle hire as well as rail travel can be held on a single card, and working with bus, tram and ferry operators to join up timetables and provide integrated smart ticketing across Scottish transport networks. New tickets combining rail with ferry and air travel, as well as multi-modal information screens at interchange stations, are also planned.

Abellio UK managing director Dominic Booth said the same back office systems at ScotRail as SPT uses for its Bramble smartcard would make integrated ticketing between rail and the Glasgow Subway an initial objective.

The £1m ticketing promotion to launch the new franchise enables people to apply for two free off-peak day return tickets on selected routes.


Related coverage in the latest issue of Passenger Transport:

New franchise will expand railway’s remit
New initiatives will encourage greater community role

Caledonian Sleeper launch
Serco begins franchise and unveils new livery


This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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