Scotrail Contract Warning Issued By Transport Minister

18 November 2016, 05:25

ScotRail could lose their contract if train performance does not improve, transport minister Humza Yousaf has said.

Mr Yousaf said he is monitoring the company's performance closely after a train breakdown in Edinburgh on Thursday morning caused travel chaos for commuters on top of ScotRail's ongoing performance troubles.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologised for the disruption passengers have faced after Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale raised the issue at First Minister's Questions.

The train broke down between Waverley and Haymarket stations, which ScotRail told the First Minister was "probably the worst place in the country'' for a breakdown.

The incident was the latest in a string of performance problems to hit the rail network, which forced ScotRail to produce a performance improvement plan in September at the request of Transport Scotland after punctuality and reliability fell below target.

Mr Yousaf said he held talks with senior management on Thursday and warned them improvements must be made.

He said: "I will be monitoring that improvement not just weekly but daily, I've just had a meeting with ScotRail's management to remind them of the obligations of that improvement plan, and I've told them we will be keeping that under review, and if performance doesn't improve there are some very, very serious consequences.

"I'm here to work with ScotRail but they were left with no uncertain terms that I expect improvement.

"ScotRail understand perfectly well that if their performance declines every option is open on the table that could result even in them losing their contract.

"There is a clause potentially that could be discussed in 2020, but even before that there is the possibility of breaking the contract early if performance falls below a certain standard.''

Mr Yousaf will be monitoring ScotRail operations on Friday morning to see how they are tackling performance issues.

During First Minister's Questions on Thursday, Ms Dugdale said that performance figures for ScotRail on Wednesday were 79% compared to a target of 91%, meaning more than one in five trains failed to arrive on time, while for rural areas this was 60%. MSPs heard the more long-term figure is around 89%.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I am sorry for the disruption that was caused this morning and also sorry for this disruption that any passenger faces on any day of the week. That's ScotRail's position and it is also mine.''

Phil Verster, managing director of the ScotRail Alliance, pledged to learn from the Edinburgh breakdown and apologised for the disruption.

Aslef, the train drivers' union, has called on Ms Sturgeon to sack Mr Yousaf.

The Scottish Government said that currently 89 out of 100 trains achieve the contracted performance measure, about 2% ahead of the GB average.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "As Aslef are well aware, having met ministers as recently as last week, we are making the best of a rail industry system imposed by the UK Government which successive UK Labour governments failed to change.

"The Labour UK Government chose not to stop franchising either in the Transport Act of 2000 or Railways Act of 2005.

"We pressed all secretaries of state in the UK Government - each refused, the last in 2012 forcing us to go ahead with the tendering process.

"We were left with no alternative but to embark on a commercial procurement exercise and we did so.

"We are now committed to ensuring the success of the current rail franchise contracts we have let.

"Using the additional rail powers that are being provided through the Scotland Act, which allow public-sector bodies to bid for future Scottish rail franchises, we will deliver on our manifesto pledge to ensure a public-sector body is in position should either the Scottish Government or ScotRail take steps to invoke the break-point in the current contract, which would end the franchise after seven years (April 2022, but decided by March 2020).''