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'Get on with it and renationalise,' RMT warns Scottish ministers on railways

SCOTTISH ministers said today that they had made back-up plans for renationalising ScotRail — but rail union RMT urged them to “get on with it.”

SNP Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said Abellio’s contract for the service could be axed if it failed to keep to the “remedial plan” issued by Transport Scotland earlier this year.

Speaking at a committee hearing at Holyrood, Mr Matheson said: “We have ongoing plans for putting in place the provision for operator of last resort, we’ve got various contracts with consultants and agencies who would support us in delivering that if that was necessary.

“We have arrangements and contracts in place that if we had to employ [an] operator of last resort we would be in a position to be able to do so.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The message from Scotland’s biggest rail union is stop messing about and get on with it.

“There should be no more final warnings, no more half-baked rescue plans and no more playing for time.

“Abellio should have the Scotrail franchise terminated with immediate effect on the grounds of persistent and gross mismanagement and the whole operation should be taken into public ownership.”

RMT also said Abellio, which is owned by the Dutch state, is planning on providing just two ticket desks offering the full range of tickets at the new Queen Street booking office.

The current temporary “travel shop” has four counters, and there were six in the old Queen Street station.

Union activists will gather outside the temporary ticket office today at 1pm for a demonstration against the cut.

Ministers slapped an improvement notice on ScotRail in February less than two months after a previous warning. Passenger satisfaction had plunged to a 15-year low.

Mr Matheson added: “Some of the benefits that will come from the remedial plan will take longer to be delivered, purely because of the complexity of these issues.

“The recruitment of an extra 55 drivers is not something they can do overnight, it takes time for them to go through the recruitment process, the training process and to get route knowledge.”

He stressed the “consequences of failing to deliver on the remedial plan and to get out of breach is very serious for the franchise plan holder.”

The Transport Secretary said this could result in ministers terminating the franchise “which would allow us to employ operator of last resort.”

Last week Alex Hynes, the boss of the Scotland’s Railway alliance between ScotRail and state-owned track operator Network Rail, told the committee that summer disruption had been “completely unacceptable” as the railways were “overwhelmed by the demand that was placed on it.”

  • NEW figures from the Scottish Household Survey show satisfaction with public transport at the lowest level ever recorded. Just 65 per cent of Scots are pleased with the services.

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