It was announced on 18 December that Abellio is to have its contract for the ScotRail franchise terminated three years early, in 2022.
There has been political pressure applied to the Scottish Government for many months to sort out the problems rail travellers have been experiencing. Unfortunately this is partly the result of confused journalists mis-informing the public, as seen in this rather absurd paragraph from a newspaper on 27 December 2019 used to introduce a 'Letter to the Editor':
ScotRail services hit by signal woes on the Far North Line
A signal failure sparked the cancellation of some rail services on the Far North Line last week, just one day after it was announced that ScotRail franchise holder, Abellio, would be stripped of its contract earlier than expected. Scottish Government transport secretary Michael Matheson announced he had triggered an early break clause which means Abellio will cease operating ScotRail services from March 2022 - three years early. It comes amid growing passenger frustration at crowded trains and cancellations.
Basic knowledge of the current railway industry, including the fact that Network Rail, not ScotRail, is responsible for the signalling system would have avoided this.
Fortunately intelligent comment is also published:
Inverness Courier 24 December 2019 - Fraser Grieve, Regional Director, Scottish Council for Development and Industry
Last week we heard the news that Abellio is to lose the ScotRail contract in 2022, three years earlier than planned.
It's been a difficult time for our railways over these past few years with upheaval caused by rail upgrades in the central belt and upgrades to deliver more electrification of the rail network there. We've also seen delays in the delivery of new trains to service those routes and refurbished trains for the services south and east of Inverness.
No one utilising our railway over these past two years could have failed to notice the challenges it faced, but at a time when so much change was taking place, and efforts to deliver more services, any operator would struggle. Abellio have not been perfect but we need to be realistic about what any operator could achieve over this period.
As we look ahead at how we deliver a transport network to meet the needs of differing areas of the country, we need to be clearer on our purpose. We need to take action to unblock the rail bottlenecks that exist throughout Scotland starting with those areas that have seen the greatest decline in service, such as here in the Highlands.
If we're really to deliver a service that meets the needs of those that live, work, or visit this part of Scotland, then we need to see greater urgency in addressing the maintenance and upgrading of our railways to ensure they keep pace with other parts of the country. Our existing transport networks continue to struggle in the face of no clear strategy or timetable to see them improved.
Promised journey time reductions on our railways that would see services of two hours and 45 minutes between Inverness and Glasgow or Edinburgh seem a long way down the track, with no noticeable effort being made to achieve them. Having promised improvements is one thing, but without a plan and resource to deliver them they'll always remain a distant destination.
Let's hope we see action to get our railways back on track.