SCOTRAIL parent firm Abellio chief executive Jeff Hoogesteger has been dismissed over “irregularities” in a public transport contract in the Netherlands, the Dutch firm announced today.
Mr Hoogesteger had moved to Edinburgh and was based at Abellio UK’s new headquarters in Glasgow, where he worked three days a week.
The shock move comes just two months after the offshoot of Dutch national railways took over the ScotRail franchise.
Company sources said the chief executive moved to Scotland and its UK base was switched from London because the franchise was “by far its most important endeavour”, according to company sources.
Mr Hoogesteger was dismissed along with Dutch Railways NS’s chief executive Timo Huges following an investigation into “irregularities” over Abellio winning a contract in Limburg.
An NS statement said: “Following ongoing investigations, Mr Hoogesteger has been released from duty and dismissed from his position without any form of severance compensation”.
The Scottish Government stressed the move would have no impact on its award of the ten-year, £2.5 billion ScotRail franchise - its biggest contract - to Abellio.
A spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the outcome of investigations of the franchise competition for regional passenger services in Limburg.
“However we have today received assurances that appropriate steps are being taken by Abellio UK to continue to manage its separate UK franchises by putting customers first.
“There is absolutely no suggestion of any conduct that puts the ScotRail franchise procurement process in doubt.
“Reviews by Audit Scotland and independent auditors have supported and indeed praised the process and the outcome.”
Abellio won the franchise last October from previous operator FirstGroup and fellow bidders National Express, Arriva, and MTR of Hong Kong, as The Scotsman revealed.
The Scottish Government said Westminster legislation had left it able to accept bids from overseas nationalised railway companies, but not from any UK public sector organisation.
It said ministers had written to three UK transport secretaries pointing out the anomaly but they had been rebuffed.
Abellio UK managing director Dominic Booth said: “The news from the supervisory board of NS is very serious for the group.
“However, this does not directly affect the leadership of the franchises we run in the UK, which operate under distinct local management.
“Matters in the Netherlands will run their course, but our focus here must and will remain entirely on continuing to serve our customers well.”
NS said its chief financial officer, Engelhardt Robbe, would take over as chief executive of both Abellio and NS on a temporary basis.
Abellio also runs train operator Abellio Greater Anglia, and Northern Rail and Merseyrail in joint ventures with Serco, and buses in London and Surrey.