by Phil Marsh

Faster train journey times called for by Scottish Government

Published: 28th December 2013

Next ScotRail franchise to deliver improvements, says Minister

Faster journey times including a best schedule of 42 minutes between Edinburgh and Glasgow are among improvements that the Scottish Government wants from the next ScotRail franchise.

Transport Scotland has published a draft Invitation to Tender (ITT) to indicate what is expected from the next franchise for Scotland’s passenger trains. The franchise will run for ten years from April 2015 with an optional break-point after five years.

Services are to be designed to attract tourists to scenic lines. Improvements are also proposed for cyclists and passengers with disabilities. Peak time ticket prices will be pegged to inflation for commuters, it was announced on 19 November 2013 by Transport Scotland, a Scottish Government agency.

“There will be continual innovation to improve Wi-Fi access for business and leisure travellers, and additional services will be laid on for major events,” it added in a statement.

Biggest Transport Scotland contract?

The ITT was produced for issue to the five bidders who have reached this stage of the process: Abellio, Arriva, First Group, MTR and National Express. Transport Scotland described the franchise as the single biggest contract let by the Scottish Government.

The next franchisee will be required to encourage more use of SMART travel systems across all ticket-types, including for use on all Scottish public transport.

ScotRail’s direct employees must earn at least the Living Wage. Every train will have to have at least two members of staff and the franchisee will be required to put in place apprenticeship schemes for more than 100 new recruits in customer service and engineering.

They said

Keith Brown MSP, Scotland’s Transport Minister, said: “Improving the passenger experience has been at the heart of our considerations for the next franchise and the specification I have set out is focused on innovation, connectivity, value and benefit for communities throughout Scotland.”

He contrasted the devolved Scottish procurement process with previous franchise arrangements specified by the Department for Transport, which Mr Brown said had focused on price. The ScotRail franchise competition included “a heavy emphasis on quality”, including service improvements.

Mr Brown said: “ScotRail will be a rail service of which Scots can rightly be proud.”

Affordable railways

Mr Brown stressed that having listened to passengers, the Scottish Government would continue a fares policy of affordable prices with peak fares rising by no more than inflation while off-peak regulated fares would fall in real terms. This would encourage more people out of their cars.

“The specification that I have set is challenging, but it will deliver real benefits to passengers as well as meeting the needs of the taxpayer for greater efficiency in the use of our resources,” Mr Brown commented.

Paul Tetlaw, rail campaigner for the environmental transport campaign, Transform Scotland, said: “The new franchise offers a unique opportunity to deliver major improvements to the railway in Scotland. Of particular importance is the need to make public transport much easier to use and we look to the bidders to bring forward proposals for the roll-out of smart ticketing right across Scotland and to combine this with much greater integration between trains and other forms of transport.”

Dr John McCormick, chairman of the Scottish Association for Public Transport (SAPT), welcomed the announcement. As well as major improvements it included service standards and arrangements for fares regulation that were much better than elsewhere in the UK.

Bidders are being invited to submit their proposals for the franchise in the spring of 2014. The winning bid will be announced in Autumn 2014 before the new franchise begins in April 2015.

Details were announced earlier for a separate franchise that is to cover Caledonian Sleeper overnight trains between Scotland and London, which are part of the current ScotRail franchise which started in 2004.

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