ScotRail handed ‘licence to fail’ despite £2m fine

Lesley Laird MP has blasted the Scottish Government for continuing to prop up ScotRail’s failing franchise – despite continued misery for passengers.

ScotRail’s performance breaches resulted in the franchise being fined over £2m in the first six months of this year.

The ScotRail franchise, operated by private company Abellio, is fined by Transport Scotland when it breaches a series of performance measures.

Between January to June this year, those fines reached a whopping £2,241,837.

According to the latest data (April – June) ScotRail passed just 15 out of 38 targets set for it, falling short for unclean trains, toilets and stations.

The figures come hard on the heels of data which revealed that ScotRail’s reliability over the last quarter hit a record low and its punctuality was the worst recorded since 2005.

Despite this, the SNP government handed ScotRail a ‘licence to fail’ until June 2019, which will allow the private company to continue to breach franchise performance levels.

In the last financial year (2017/18), ministers upped their payment to ScotRail by 22.3 per cent to an eye-watering £307 million – the biggest franchise payment in the entire UK.

Lesley Laird MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath said: “I know I join hundreds of train users here in Fife in thinking this shambles simply beggars belief.

“The Scottish Government should be standing up for hard-pressed passengers by demanding better service but instead they’re happy to lower performance standards to protect this franchise at any cost.

“These benchmarks were set for a reason, namely to protect paying passengers by ensuring they could rely on decent service.

“Instead, for years now, weary commuters have endured late, overcrowded and, especially here in Fife, overpriced trains.

“Bear in mind this £2m fine is effectively funded by the taxpayer through subsidies in the first place, so passengers are essentially paying twice: by paying both the fine and the misery of having to depend on shoddy rail services.”

Lesley concluded: “This franchise has failed passengers, has failed taxpayers and yet – incredibly – Abellio has been granted a licence to keep failing.

“The Scottish Government needs to draw a line under this debacle by using its power to end this franchise early and bring rail services into public ownership by 2022.

“I would urge the Transport Secretary to use the upcoming franchise break and deliver a railway service for Scotland which puts passengers – not profits – first.”

Pic: Train Photos/Flickr