We are considering all options for the future operation of ScotRail services after the current contract, which is expected to end in March 2022. In doing so, we have to work within the relevant current legislation, which neither Scottish ministers nor this Parliament has the powers to change. We must also take into account the on-going impact of Covid-19, and we still await the publication of the United Kingdom Government’s white paper on rail. I expect to be in a position soon to provide an update to Parliament and to give the assurances that ScotRail staff and passengers would expect.
During the Abellio years of the ScotRail franchise, customers have watched on aghast as the Government has poured hundreds of millions of pounds into the company while they sit on overcrowded trains that often run on a delayed timetable. What action will the Government take to ensure that the next operator is publicly owned, so that we have a service that is up to scratch and which puts passengers before profits?
The member may be aware that I am not in favour of franchising and that I do not want to enter into a further franchise. Under the existing rail legislation, our only principal option involves franchising rail services. I would prefer not to be in a position of having another franchise, and I assure the member that the approach that we want to take would not involve the further franchising of the ScotRail contract.