Scotland

Protestors call for Abellio to be stripped of rail contract

Protesters outside Glasgow Central
Image caption Protesters called for rail services to be brought into public ownership

A demonstration calling for the nationalisation of rail services has been held at Glasgow Central Station.

Campaigners at the demo, organised by the TSSA union, have demanded Abellio be stripped of the ScotRail contract.

On Monday, the rail operator offered extra compensation to some passengers, after apologising over the weekend for the "unacceptable" service.

It follows months of complaints about cancellations, delays and overcrowded carriages on some routes.

The problems prompted ministers to issue ScotRail with an eight-week improvement order in December.

In a statement on the ScotRail website, season ticket holders who have been most affected by cancellations due to crew shortages are offered free weekend travel in the spring.

The rail operator said it was "a goodwill gesture to say sorry to our most loyal customers, and to thank them for their patience".

'Tough circumstances'

TSSA union leader Manuel Cortes said passengers were "rightly angry" at being "let down" by ScotRail.

He said: "2019 started with yet more late and cancelled trains and overcrowding is at an all-time high.

"Blame belongs with Abellio and their team of senior managers.

"Poor planning, deliberate understaffing of the railway and trying to do things on the cheap are not the fault of our members who do their best in tough circumstances."

Image caption The demonstration in Glasgow's Central Station was organised by the TSSA union

Abellio won the £6bn franchise to run ScotRail services for a decade in 2014.

However, Mr Cortes said Scottish passengers deserved better. He added: "Under public ownership not only could ticket prices come down but investment in rolling stock and staff would go up.

"A publicly owned ScotRail would reinvest the profits back into running the railway."

'Very sorry'

On Saturday, Alex Hynes, the managing director of ScotRail Alliance - a partnership between Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail - apologised to rail users, saying: "We are very sorry to ScotRail customers for our unacceptable service in parts of the country recently.

"While our teams work hard every day to deliver the service you demand, the reality is that we've fallen below the standard you expect and deserve."

However, Mr Hynes warned that disruption to services was likely to continue for "the foreseeable future" as the company grappled with ongoing training issues for drivers on new trains.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Passengers have experienced delays, cancellations and overcrowded carriages over recent months
Image copyright Douglas Maxwell
Image caption Routes across the central belt, Fife and the Borders have faced disruption

In December, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson ordered ScotRail to submit a remedial plan outlining how it planned to address performance issues related to services around Edinburgh, Fife and the Borders.

'Hit the brakes'

A Scottish government spokesman said: "Rail remains a reserved matter under the Scotland Act. Until this changes, we cannot consider the full range of options for running the railways in Scotland in a way which best suits our passengers, freight providers and communities.

"That is why we are yet again calling on the UK government, through its rail review, to devolve all rail matters to the Scottish ministers.

Image copyright Getty Images

The spokesman added that the Scottish government had secured powers to accept bids for future rail franchises in Scotland from public sector organisations through the Scotland Act 2016.

Scottish Labour said they would have campaigners joining union members at the demonstration in Glasgow.

The party's transport spokesman Colin Smyth MSP said: "It's time to hit the brakes on rail privatisation. Hard-pressed passengers have just seen a rip-off fare rise following months of poor service, with late-running, overcrowded trains."

More on this story