TSSA is among a coalition of organisations and MSPs which have today written to Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, calling for the Scottish Government to take Scotland's rail passenger services into public ownership from January 2021. There are just 24 days left until the Covid Emergency Measures Agreements for Scotrail and Caledonian Sleeper expire.
The letter is signed by 14 organisations representing Scotland’s rail workers, passengers, disabled people, pensioners, environmentalists, civil society and 20 cross-party Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs).
The signatories highlight that the Covid-19 pandemic has created “substantial and unprecedented challenges” for Scotland’s railway, and that the Scottish Government has provided significant funding for the operators during this period. Yet, despite this support from the Scottish taxpayer, the private operators Abellio Scotrail and Serco Caledonian Sleeper “still stand to profit from Scotland’s railway through being paid a fee for operating services”.
The letter goes on to say:
“Appointing a public operator in the New Year would provide greater stability and resilience for Scotland’s railways. It would also end profiteering and provide greater value for money for taxpayers and passengers by ensuring all funds are reinvested into creating an improved and more affordable railway that can play a greater role in connecting communities and reducing carbon emissions.”
Commenting, TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Privatisation of our railways has failed and the franchising model is dead. We applaud the actions of the Welsh Labour government in bringing parts of its rail network into public ownership and we urge the Scottish SNP government to do the same.
“There is an opportunity to permanently improve our rail network post-Covid by bringing it into public ownership, ending the private rail rip off and raising both safety standards and services across a green rail network.”
The letter is signed by the following organisations: TSSA, RMT, Aslef, STUC, Unite the Union, Association of British Commuters, Bring Back British Rail, Common Wealth, Disabled People Against Cuts, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Get Glasgow Moving, Platform, Scottish Pensioners Forum, We Own It.
The letter is signed by the following MSPs: Jackie Baillie MSP, Claudia Beamish MSP, Neil Bibby MSP, Sarah Boyack MSP, Neil Findlay MSP, John Finnie MSP, Rhoda Grant MSP, Iain Gray MSP, Daniel Johnson MSP, James Kelly MSP, Johann Lamont MSP, Monica Lennon MSP, Richard Leonard MSP, Lewis Macdonald MSP, Pauline McNeill MSP, Alex Rowley MSP, Mark Ruskell MSP, Elaine Smith MSP, Colin Smyth MSP, David Stewart MSP.
The letter reads:
“Dear First Minister,
The Future of Scotland’s Rail Passenger Services
We are writing to you regarding the future of Scotland’s rail passenger services and to call on the Scottish Government to take these services into public ownership from January 2021.
Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, the Abellio Scotrail franchise was providing neither value for money nor an acceptable level of service for passengers. You, of course, recognised this and last year stated that Scotrail was in ‘the last chance saloon’.
The Covid-19 pandemic has, of course, created substantial and unprecedented challenges for Scotland’s railways, and passenger numbers remain significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels. The Scottish Government has, through Emergency Measures Agreements, provided significant additional funding for Scotrail and the Caledonian Sleeper, who would otherwise have become unviable during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite this support from the Scottish taxpayer, it is business as usual for the private operators who still stand to profit from Scotland’s railway through being paid a fee for operating services.
We firmly believe that when the current Emergency Measures Agreements expire in January 2021, rather than extending them, the Scottish Government should use the powers that it has to take Scotland’s rail passenger services into public ownership via the Operator of Last Resort (OLR). As you know these powers can be used when the rail operator is no longer able to run the service and is a course of action the Welsh Government has recently taken to protect its rail services.
Appointing a public operator in the New Year would provide greater stability and resilience for Scotland’s railways. It would also end profiteering and provide greater value for money for taxpayers and passengers by ensuring all funds are reinvested into creating an improved and more affordable railway that can play a greater role in connecting communities and reducing carbon emissions.”