Public sector bidders sought for next ScotRail franchise
PUBLIC sector bidders will be eligible to bid for the next ScotRail franchise.
The Scottish Government confirmed the move on August 23, stating that this was a Programme for Government when it was elected.
Abellio currently operates the ScotRail franchise, having been awarded the contract in 2014 and taking over on April 1 2015. There is a breakpoint in the contract in 2020, but Transport Scotland confirmed that even if that option is taken up, the current franchise would run for two years beyond that. However, TS confirmed to
RAIL that it expects the existing deal to end in 2025, and that the tendering process will begin around 2023. A spokesman said: “We have stated many times that the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government should have full powers to consider all options for the delivery of Scotland’s railway services.”
Already David MacBrayne Limited has confirmed its interest in exploring the possibility of bidding for the next contract. DML is the parent company of three businesses - CalMac Ferries Ltd, Argyll Ferries Ltd and Solent Gateway Ltd - and is a publicly owned private company with the Scottish Government as the sole shareholder.
In a statement, Transport Scotland said that future rail franchise competitions “will continue to be fair and transparent, giving equal treatment to all bidders whether from the public or private sectors. This approach will help ensure the delivery of rail services in Scotland that maximise economic and social benefit.”
A spokesman said the nature and terms of what is expected will be detailed in the Invitation to Tender.
New powers were awarded to Scottish Ministers in 2016, through the Scotland Act 2016, to allow public sector bodies to bid for rail franchises. This followed Scottish Government representations to the Smith Commission.
Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, said: “Our consistent view over many years is that there ought to be a level playing field between the private and public sector in bidding for rail franchises. We secured the right for a public sector operator to bid for a rail franchise in Scotland, after being denied by previous UK Governments.
“Identifying a public sector body to make a bid has not been easy. It was vital to consider a range of scenarios, as we want to strengthen competition and achieve best value for the public purse while delivering continuous service improvements.
“It is important for any public sector bidder to have the appetite to bid; the capability and capacity to see the bid through; and the ability and resources to make the franchise a success.
“It is also our view that the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government should have full powers to consider all options for structuring our railways to meet Scotland’s needs.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman told RAIL that the Scottish Government is aware of passenger frustrations regarding train performance, but that it also understands the challenges and factors facing rail performance - both historically and more recently. He said the ScotRail Alliance senior management knows more must be done to build on the lessons
learned so far.
TS acknowledged that 160 additional coaches have been added to the ScotRail fleet since the start of the franchise, with a further 200 to follow in the next month, giving the operator a 50% increase in fleet size since 2007.
In 2015, the Scottish Government also awarded Serco a 15-year contract to operate the Caledonian Sleeper franchise, and a TS spokesman said: “We reaffirm our commitment to work with Serco to deliver the transformation over the 15-year contract duration.
“While any future decision about the nature of this contract will be taken at an appropriate time, Scottish Ministers secured the ability for public sector bodies to bid for all future Scottish rail franchises.”
Veteran ScotRail 314201 leaves Glasgow Central with the 1142 to Paisley Canal on August 21, while in the background classmate 314202 arrives with the 1057 from Wemyss Bay. Public sector bidders will be able to bid for the next ScotRail franchise, although by then (2023), these three-car EMUs will have been consigned to history with withdrawals planned for this year.