Published: 10th October 2014
Abellio has been announced as the winners of the ScotRail franchise by Keith Brown, the Minister for Transport in the Scottish Assembly. The announcement was headed up as a ‘New deal to transform rail services’ and will bring new trains, revamped stations and a huge range of other benefits will overhaul the ScotRail franchise the Minister said.
This is the largest single contract let by the Scottish Government and Abellio will invest millions to offer an improved service and better facilities for passengers as well as a better deal for staff.
Abellio take the franchise over on April 1, 2015 with a review clause after five years which allows for up to a further five years. The incumbent operator, First Group will continue to operate the trains until then. The award is intended to make train travel more attractive to all by providing free wifi on all trains, 24% more carriages used, a new approach to cycling with over 3,500 parking spaces and bike-hire at a number of stations.
Reflecting the scenic nature of many Scottish routes, a Great Scenic Railway scheme will be introduced aimed at increasing tourist travel. Reduced fares will be available for jobseekers with an advance flat fare of £5 between any two Scottish cities introduced. Hitachi will be building brand new trains for the franchise offering over 33% more seats.
Aberdeen and Inverness stations will be developed to become major shopping centres while staff will enjoy a commitment relating to earnings at the living wage level and at least 100 apprenticeships will be introduced. There will be no compulsory redundancies in the franchise and rail staff pensions and travel rights protected and guaranteed trade union representation on every franchise Board meeting will be introduced.
Jeff Hoogesteger, CEO of Abellio Group, said “This is a huge day for Abellio and indeed the Netherlands which has such a rich history of commercial and cultural trade with Scotland. Abellio is delighted and incredibly excited to have been given this opportunity to manage Scotland’s national rail network."
Abellio acquires and operates public transport franchises with the aim of consolidating the position of NS in the European market as it becomes more deregulated. Abellio currently has rail and bus transport operations in Great Britain and Germany and through Qbuzz in the Netherlands.
The new ScotRail franchise will strengthen Abellio’s position in the UK Rail industry. Running Scotland’s national railway is a good fit with the NS Group core network operation in the Netherlands; the characteristics of the two networks are similar in that there is a heavily populated ‘central belt’ around Edinburgh and Glasgow with less populated regional areas. With 346 stations, more than 2,000 train services a day, 800 train vehicles and 86.3m passenger journeys per annum the operation is extensive, and again similar in many ways to NS.
“The Scottish Government believes good public transport improves the lives of the people and the economy of Scotland. Following extensive consultation by the Scottish Government, Scotland’s railway has attracted a world leading contract to deliver for rail staff and passengers.
“We’ve already ensured that regulated rail fares will stay in line with inflation or less, and Abellio has come up with some truly innovative ways to make rail even more affordable, such as the £5 intercity fare anywhere in Scotland and reduced ticket prices for jobseekers and those newly in work, as well as a Price Promise for guaranteed best value fares.
“There will be benefits all over the country, with faster services between all our cities, new trains in the Central Belt, a Great Scenic Railway scheme bringing more tourists to the north, the south west and the Borders and major shopping developments at the stations at Aberdeen and Inverness. Glasgow will be the new base for Abellio in the UK with around 200 jobs.
“Trains will have more space for prams and wheelchairs, there will be rigorous new service quality control measures ensuring cleaner trains and improved right-time measures.
We’ll see later services for concerts and events and improved integration with bus, ferry and air timetables, alongside a £520,000 Station Travel Planning ‘Plus’ programme and a Journey Companion app with door-to-door travel info, to ensure passengers can get straight from A-B.
“Every single Scottish station will have CCTV and passengers will enjoy improved waiting facilities at 40 stations, extra retail facilities at up to 50 stations, and hundreds of new car parking spaces.
“All employees including employees of subcontractors will be paid at least the living wage and a new Scottish training academy will be established.
“And for the wider community, unused station buildings will be transformed into premises for start-up businesses, locally-sourced food and drink will provide improved on-train catering, ScotRail training facilities will be available to charities free of charge and the franchisee will pay out £500,000 every year for rail-related community schemes.
“These exciting plans mean that our railways will continue to be innovative, passenger-led and a hugely important driver in Scotland’s long-term success and sustainability.
“This is a contract that will benefit the whole of Scotland.”
Hitachi Rail Europe will be building new trains for the Abellio ScotRail franchise which will operate between Edinburgh and Glasgow electrification and route upgrade. It is understood that whoever won the franchise had contracted with Hitachi to provide new trains – a common practice in the UK rail franchise bidding process.
Andy Barr, Hitachi Rail Europe’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “We are delighted that Abellio has selected Hitachi Rail Europe as preferred bidder to supply rolling stock as well as long-term maintenance of our electric trains. This is great news, as it is the first contract for our recently launched AT200 commuter train.
These trains will be built at Hitachi’s new Rail Vehicle Manufacturing Facility in Newton Aycliffe and will consist of 70 100mph AT200 electric multiple units (EMUs) to enable 46 three-car trains and 24 four-car trains to operate using the 234 carriages. They will also eventually operate on the Stirling – Alloa – Dunblane lines.
A spokesman from Abellio said: “We are delighted at the decision of Transport Scotland to award Abellio the new ScotRail franchise. The new fleet proposal was a major feature in our winning bid, and we look forward now to continuing the negotiations with our preferred supplier Hitachi.”
The train has been designed to ‘transform the regional commuter travel experience’ and features cab-end and inter-vehicle gangways to allow passengers to move around throughout the train. The AT200 is designed to work for 35 years and is said to be very energy efficient and lighter reducing the impact on rail infrastructure and will start operating from 2017.
Andy Barr continued: “For ScotRail, the passenger experience was a particular area of consideration for us. We wanted to ensure that passengers have a pleasant travelling environment with adequate table and toilet facilities, LED lighting and air conditioning as standard. Power sockets and wifi are available throughout the trains, bringing modern comforts to the travelling public. In addition to this, the space underneath our cantilever seats provides room for luggage, which is supplemented by further luggage storage for commuter travel.”
First Group has now lost the last four bidding competitions for Rail franchises and is left with Transpennine Express and First Great Western for which they have just been awarded an extension. They were the UK’s largest rail operator.