The February issue of the respected trade journal Modern Railways contains a table of subsidies paid to the various rail companies in the UK. It is written by retired railway manager Theo Steel.
Top of the list (by a long way in terms of reliance on the public purse) is First Scotland. The calculations show that First ScotRail gains 17.5p per passenger kilometre.
Extrapolated, this equates to some £28 per passenger for every traveller on a single journey for the 100 miles between, say, Aberdeen and Inverness.
The person who singles out First ScotRail as the most heavily subsidised train company in the UK is Theo Steel.
He ought to know: he worked for First Group as managing director of its subsidiary First Great Eastern.
I confess that the economics of our privatised railways leave me baffled in their complexity. But I’m realising with every day passing why the ScotRail franchise has been referred to as “the dripping roast”.
At 28p per passenger per mile, it’s a virtual goldmine. By contrast, some companies return a premium to the Exchequer.
Does Scotland’s rail franchise represent value for money for us taxpayers?