by Josephine Cordero Sapién
10 Feb 2022
Operator of Last Resort
The Scottish government will take over ScotRail services from 1 April 2022.
The transport minister Jenny Gilruth said in a statement to parliament on 9 February that ScotRail would enter public ownership on 1 April.
During her statement, she asked elected representatives and rail unions to participate in the debate about the future of rail services so that Scotland has an affordable, sustainable and customer-focused rail passenger service after Covid-19. Information about how individuals can take part in this process will be made available in the coming weeks.
The transport minister said she wanted to work closely with partners such as women’s organisations and the British Transport Police to improve the public transport system and make it safer.
This transition will take place when the current ScotRail franchise – run by Abellio – comes to an end. ScotRail services will be run by the Operator of Last Resort and ScotRail staff will be transferred to the new Scottish government-owned body, with their terms and conditions remaining unchanged.
The ScotRail franchise was awarded to Abellio for a period of seven years (2015–2022) with the option to extend by three years if certain performance criteria were met. However, Abellio did not do that and it was announced in 2019 that the franchise would end due to poor performance.
With the arrival of the pandemic, then, the Scottish government put an Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA) in place in April 2020, thereby making some temporary changes to the ScotRail franchise agreement as a result of travel restrictions. This EMA expired in September 2020 and a further EMAs have been put in place since.
A core Operator of Last Resort period of three to five years is envisaged, but could run for up to ten years.
David Clarke, head of RIA in Scotland, commented on the announcement, saying the transition to the new structure should be as seamless as possible “so rail suppliers can continue to deliver effectively, to time and budget, without any hiatus in work”.
The RMT union also welcomed the move.
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