A public sector body could run the next ScotRail franchise

Photo: theasis.
Photo: theasis.

Public sector bodies will be free to bid for the next rail franchise covering services in Scotland, Scottish ministers have confirmed today.

Michael Matheson, cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity, said it has been the department’s view “over many years” that there should be a level playing field between the private and public sector when it comes to bidding for rail franchises.

The current ScotRail franchise has been operated by Abellio, the international arm of Dutch national operator NS, since 2015. The next franchise is set to begin in 2025.

David MacBrayne, one of the largest logistics companies in Scotland which is owned by the Scottish Government, has confirmed it will explore the possibility of bidding for the Scottish rail franchise contract, according to Transport Scotland.

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Nevertheless, Michael Matheson said it has not been easy identifying a public sector body that could make a bid.

He added: “It is important for any public sector bidder to have the appetite to bid; the capability and capacity to see the bid through; and the ability and resources to make the franchise a success.

“It is also our view that the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government should have full powers to consider all options for structuring our railways to meet Scotland’s needs.”

Read more: ScotRail’s first upgraded HST arrives in Scotland