Public ownership of ScotRail will ‘offer better value for money’

Transport secretary says Scottish Government will try its 'very best' to keep any cost increases to a minimum.

Public ownership of ScotRail will ‘offer better value for money’ SNS Group
Government-run company will take over ScotRail franchise when Abellio's contract comes to an end.

Taxpayers and passengers will get better value for money when the Scottish Government takes over the ScotRail franchise in 2022, the transport secretary has said.

Michael Matheson said the government will “try our very best” to keep any cost increases to a minimum and offer financial incentives for commuters to take the train when the pandemic is over.

He announced on Wednesday that a government-run company will take over the franchise when Abellio’s contract comes to an end.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Thursday, he said legal constraints mean the government needs to wait for the current contract to finish.

Trade unions and opposition parties have long called for the franchise to be brought into public ownership.

Discussing Abellio’s record in charge of ScotRail, Matheson said: “It’s been very much a mixed report card for Abellio but one we did not believe lived up to our aspirations and what we set out in the original franchise agreement with them.”

Asked if taxpayers and passengers will get better value for money under the new set-up, he said: “Yes they will. Because it will effectively cut out the company who are presently running them.”

This includes the company’s “considerable” management costs, he said.

Asked if ticket prices will be reduced, the minister said: “The fares that we have in Scotland are actually about 20% cheaper than they are in any other part of the UK.

“So we try to minimise the costs which are associated with any fare increase in Scotland.

“We’ll certainly try our very best to try and keep any cost increase to the lowest possible level.”

He added that after the pandemic, commuters will be offered new incentives to encourage them back on to the railway network.