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Thursday 20th
posted by Zoe Streatfield in Britain

Thousands sign petition against privateer

DUTCH train operator Abellio is facing embarrassment after thousands of Scots signed a petition demanding that the company to be stripped of the ScotRail contract.

More than 19,000 people backed the call for the Scottish government to act in response to numerous delays and cancellations, which was handed to Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf yesterday.

Abellio took over the ScotRail franchise from First Group in 2014 and is currently raking in a profit of £1 million a month.

The Scottish government can trigger a clause to remove the contract from a service provider if punctuality rates drop below 84 per cent.

More than one in 10 ScotRail trains are over five minutes late, according to managing director Phil Verster.

Stewart Kirkpatrick of campaign group 38 Degrees told BBC BBC Radio Scotland: “We’ve been bombarded with stories from members across Scotland of delays, frustrations, missed appointments, important life events being impacted by the poor service offered by ScotRail and they’ve had enough.”

He said that if improving the service meant taking the contract off Abellio, “then so be it.”

ScotRail was also embroiled in a row during the summer with rail union RMT over the extension of driver-only train operation, which the union argued would compromise passenger safety by removing guards.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash welcomed the petition, which “helps to force the pace for railways in Scotland to be run as a public service and not as a private profit-making enterprise.”

Mr Verster admitted that the company needed to be in a “better place with train punctuality performance,” but insisted ScotRail was making an “incredible” effort to improve matters.

He blamed the delays on industrial action and disruption caused by a “modernisation” programme.

Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Neil Bibby said the petition “should serve as a wake-up call to the SNP government” and called on it to intervene.

Mr Yousaf insisted that resolving the problem was his “top priority.”