Dutch operator Abellio has won the contract to run Scottish rail services from the start of April 2015 and it has “promised” the following.
High-speed intercity diesel trains with over a third more seats; free wi-fi on all trains; 23 per cent more carriages across the network; reduced fares for jobseekers; advance fares of £5 between any two Scottish cities; major shopping developments at stations in Aberdeen and Inverness; a living wage for all staff and subcontractors and at least 100 apprenticeships; and a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies across the life of the contract.
The ten-year contract has a break clause after five years and is worth £6 billion.
I am not at all surprised that there is no mention of a clause stipulating improved independent access to and from trains and stations for those of us with a mobility impairment.
What a change just seven days brings.
Only last week, First ScotRail won the award of Train Operator of the Year.
I have to say how pleased I am about the news of First Group losing its franchise and the Dutch organisation Abellio, taking it over for the next ten years.
It’s time this country made changes to its rail network in order to keep on track with the rest of the world.
I know the decision has caused anger and resentment among unions.
However, as a much travelled rail customer over the years across many countries in Europe I have to say the service is far better in the Netherlands than I have ever experienced in Scotland.
I have always found travelling on trains in Scotland to be disappointing, overpriced, disorganised and a poor experience, with a shortage of carriages leading to overcrowded and uncomfortable trains.
The proposed price changes are exciting, with discount fares being offered for job-seekers, many of whom find train travel to be out of their budget.
And 23 per cent more carriage space across the network is bound to reduce overcrowding. I think this is a good opportunity for Scottish train travel.
During First’s management of the ScotRail franchise amazing improvements were witnessed in countless fields.
These included operating many additional train services throughout the length and breadth of Scotland from Lairg and Elgin to Ayr and Shotts and the setting up of a vastly improved customer/staff interface.
Train sets and stations were cleaner, longer trains ran on many lines and fare dodging was eliminated by installing barrier checks.
It is hard to understand how First lost this franchise.
Colin C Maclean