Rail unions yesterday gave a guarded welcome to a pledge by Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy that his party will deliver a “people’s ScotRail” in the public sector.
RMT said its position remained that of full nationalisation of the railway, while train drivers’ union Aslef said Mr Murphy’s call was a “step in the right direction but still falls short.”
In October the Scottish government awarded the next 10-year ScotRail contract from April 2015 to Abbellio — owned by the Dutch national railway — and its private partner Serco.
Mr Murphy said the Smith Agreement would give the Scottish Parliament the powers to allow a non-profit public-sector organisation to bid to run Scotland’s railways — and called for the suspension of the ScotRail franchise until after the power is devolved.
Mr Murphy said: “The current ScotRail franchise sees money going straight from the public purse to shareholders’ pockets. The incoming one will see Scottish public money support transport infrastructure in Holland.
“Neither deal is the best deal for Scotland when commuters are waiting on late-running services, paying overinflated fares whilst being squeezed against train doors on overcrowded journeys.
“The best deal for Scotland is a People’s ScotRail, a railway company whose commitment is not to a group of shareholders or a foreign government but to the people of Scotland.”
Kevin Lindsay, Aslef’s organiser in Scotland, told the Morning Star that his union had proposed the “people’s railway” last year along with the Co-op Party.
“The proposals on a government agency bidding are a worry as it costs around £10 million to put a bid together, so we are sceptical that any government would risk that sort of money.
“It would make more sense to stop franchising and bring ScotRail under government ownership.
“What Jim Murphy is proposing is a major step in the right direction but still falls short,” he said.
RMT Scottish secretary Mick Hogg told the Morning Star: “Our position remains crystal clear — we want to see renationalisation and we welcome moves in that direction.
“Jim Murphy is being very careful to say the right things now, trying to get maximum votes with the general election due — but he said bugger-all previously.”