Scottish Daily Mail

Humza urges ‘punishment’ of rail giants Stagecoach

- By Rachel Watson Deputy Scottish Political Editor

STAGECOACH ‘should be punished’ over failures to deliver on a key rail contract, according to the Transport Minister.

Humza Yousaf yesterday launched a scathing attack on Brian Souter’s company, insisting he had no sympathy for, or loyalty to, the firm.

The joint Stagecoach and Virgin contract to run the East Coast Mainline franchise will end earlier than expected after the UK Government claimed the company ‘got its numbers wrong’.

UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling revealed Mr Souter’s company would continue to run the Edinburgh to London route for a ‘small number of months and no more’. He added that the Government may be forced to take over the service.

Stagecoach and Virgin signed a deal to run the East Coast line from 2015 to 2023, pledging to pay the Government £3.3billion.

Yesterday, Mr Yousaf said that it was up to the UK Government to decide whether or not to ban Stagecoach from future public contracts on the railways. Appearing on BBC Sunday Politics he said: ‘This is a UK Government contract and it’s up to them who gets banned or not.’

But he insisted he had no loyalty to the company owned by prominent SNP donor Mr Souter.

He said: ‘I have got no loyalty to Stagecoach, nor do I have any sympathy for them.

‘They should be punished. The First Minister was very clear at First Minister’s Questions that they have got very serious questions to answer.

‘Clearly this does not put Stagecoach in a very good light whatsoever.’

His comments come after Nicola Sturgeon squared up to bosses over the contract. Stagecoach founder Mr Souter was a major donor to the SNP under Alex Salmond’s leadership, giving the party £2.5million in eight years.

He also donated around £200,000 to Yes-supporting campaign groups during the Scottish independen­ce campaign in 2014.

Last night, a spokesman for Perth-based Stagecoach said: ‘While passengers and taxpayers have benefitted hugely from our management of the railway, we regret that our investors have received no dividends, they have seen a significan­t fall in their investment, and our business has lost close to £200million from the East Coast contract.’

Mr Yousaf also revealed the Scottish Government is looking at plans for a public sector bid for the ScotRail franchise.

He said options identified during cross-party discussion­s included plans which would see ministers set up a new public body to bid when the current contract with Abellio runs out in 2025.

Opponents have called for the Dutch firm to be stripped of its contract following a run of delays, cancellati­ons and overcrowdi­ng on Scotland’s railways.

Comment – Page 16

‘No sympathy for them’

 ??  ?? Scathing: Humza Yousaf
Scathing: Humza Yousaf

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