Abellio Scotrail Franchise to end early in March 2022

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380101

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Hi. I'll throw my twopence in. Abellio failings have been staff morale and lack of spending on OT and recruitment. They have in their defence invested on rolling stock and infrastructure. Where previously First invested in Staff and they looked at their staff as their main asset. The next company needs to be lead by Steve Montgomery or Mary Grant. People who know the Scottish model. Cal mac can bid but they are the first to say they have zero rail experience. If Abellio continues to deliver refurbished HSTs then the next franchise holder will have it handed to them in great shape on a plate. I believe the HST lease runs until 2032. Abellio will scale back like any franchise owner would do now. They have been bad for penny pinching and silly spending all rolled into 1. I hope everyone gets a good outcome from this.
Unlikely to prise Steve Montgomery away from MD of First Rail to effectively take a demotion down to MD of a TOC. Likewise with Mary Grant who is the MD of one of the rolling stock leasing companies - license to print money there!
 
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alangla

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Not a criticism of Abellio directly (as it'd have happened regardless) but one additional problem that ScotRail now have is that the complicated service pattern means that services are no longer self contained - e.g. Helensburgh/ Cumbernauld/ Ayr all have direct Edinburgh services, so the most minor disruption at Haymarket can spread disruption all over the central belt. In my day, nothing from Waverley went beyond Central/ Queen Street (other than the Sleeper), so the high frequency EMUs through Patrick were operationally separate, and the various "southside" routes operated as self contained shuttles to/from Central. No easy way of improving the reliability when there are so many services overlapping - if a butterfly sneezes on the single track outside Milngavie then the whole network might have caught pneumonia a couple of hours later.
Abellio have adjusted the timetables though, especially on the North Clyde. Under First it was Helensburgh to Edinburgh stopping everywhere except Bowling, Garscadden etc, Balloch to Airdrie stopping everywhere and Milngavie to Edinburgh stopping practically nowhere east of the city. The new TT has balanced out the passenger loads between the empty Milngavie trains and the busier Helensburgh ones but it’s lost the clock face schedule east of Queen Street and having Dumbarton P3 in constant use means it’s not as usable for turn backs. The diagrams on the Argyle line are hideous. I traced them once and it looked like about a 5 hour tour of Lanarkshire and Dunbartonshire before they repeated. There are or were 2 sets of them too, not every train reaches every point during the day. Abellio have also started doing driver changes at Central low level- I’ve yet to see one of these fail, but it must happen. Basically a load of complexity has been added to something that was already hideously complicated & there seems to be an assumption that everything will always go to plan. Whether anyone else would have been better is anyone’s guess, First had their own spectacular messes (A2B launch?)
 

Steven_G

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Apart from late 385’s and HST’s I don’t see much else to fail Abellio on.

Shortened franchise means no 10 extra 385/s Abellio offered conditional on that extension.

And the franchising model is rumoured to be under review across UK meaning ScotGov might have just gotten in first.

If it’s a publicly owned but commercially operated for non-profit I don’t see the problem. Only personnel change will be the top management.

Money saved by being non-profit can be ploughed directly into more improvements.
 

Steve childs

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Unlikely to prise Steve Montgomery away from MD of First Rail to effectively take a demotion down to MD of a TOC. Likewise with Mary Grant who is the MD of one of the rolling stock leasing companies - license to print money there!
Yeh you have a point there. The only point I have to that is, porterbrook better think fast about investing in new rolling stock before Hitachi and Siemens take over. I think Mary Grant would give it a crack. She was close with the national Express bid. You never know. Serco might throw their hat in the ring again. Who ever it is cant lose. Abellio has taken all the flack while investing. Someone will walk away with the rewards. Who is to say Abellio wont get chosen again in 2022 with different franchise obligations.
 

roadierway77

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I live in Fife, and while I don't get the train into Edinburgh as much as I used to, I can vouch by personal experience, friends and family's stories and articles in my local newspaper that the service on the Fife Circle is awful.

2 carriage trains in the peak and during events like rugby and the Fringe, trains cancelled minutes before they were due to arrive, ancient Mk2s being used on peak time services. As an enthusiast I enjoy the novelty of a loco-hauled service, but to the normal commuter old carriages are not ideal. The interiors of the Mk2s still feel like they're stuck in the 70s.

Hopefully whoever the new operator is can focus on the east coast more than Abellio have.

I heard a rumour a while ago that CalMac (or at least some sort of subsidiary of CalMac) were looking into running Scotland's railway.

Any evidence of or thoughts on this?
 

PG

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If it's a publicly owned but commercially operated for non-profit I don’t see the problem. Only personnel change will be the top management.

Money saved by being non-profit can be ploughed directly into more improvements.
The thing is, unless I'm mistaken, Abellio haven't been making any profits. Quite the opposite in that the parent company has been funding the shortfall.
I'm sure someone can provide figures to confirm...
 

Bletchleyite

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The thing is, unless I'm mistaken, Abellio haven't been making any profits. Quite the opposite in that the parent company has been funding the shortfall.
I'm sure someone can provide figures to confirm...
I do wonder if, with this having been announced, Abellio might throw in the towel sooner, and do wonder if this is what is desired.
 

mde

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Heaven help us if it is!!

Do TS have an OLR ready to go?? Or would they let DafT fulfill that function?
TS do allegedly have an OLR plan in place.

This does, however, seem to be a case of "be careful what you wish for"…
Michael Matheson said:
We have on-going plans for putting in place the provision for operator of last resort. We have various contracts with the consultants and agencies that would support us in delivering that option if it were necessary. That is part of our requirement as the franchise goes forward. We have arrangements and contracts in place so that, if we had to act as operator of last resort, we would be in a position to do so.
https://shar.es/a34con
 

Butts

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Travelling from Falkirk to Edinburgh most day's I find the service to be quite reliable and largely punctual.

The Hitachi seats are like ironing boards compared to their predeccessors !!!

Bring back First Scotrail - headquartered in Aberdeen , but that didn't save it last time.
 

ptsc

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That seems fair - though part of the train problem was down to late delivery of the 385s and the well documented Wabtec problems (which then put pressure on the existing fleet)



This bears repeating - there'll be a lot of hysteria about them being "stripped" or "punished" - this is just a standard contract break that won't take place until the planned date in over two years time (rather than any actual punishment - if the Government were so angry about things then they'd do more than just let the contract run its natural course with no penalty). Still, the headlines will shout loudly...



Agreed - it's hard to see how much more can be squeezed through existing infrastructure.

Not a criticism of Abellio directly (as it'd have happened regardless) but one additional problem that ScotRail now have is that the complicated service pattern means that services are no longer self contained - e.g. Helensburgh/ Cumbernauld/ Ayr all have direct Edinburgh services, so the most minor disruption at Haymarket can spread disruption all over the central belt. In my day, nothing from Waverley went beyond Central/ Queen Street (other than the Sleeper), so the high frequency EMUs through Patrick were operationally separate, and the various "southside" routes operated as self contained shuttles to/from Central. No easy way of improving the reliability when there are so many services overlapping - if a butterfly sneezes on the single track outside Milngavie then the whole network might have caught pneumonia a couple of hours later.



It's incredibly good, when it works, light years ahead of supposedly equivalent inter-city services in northern England.
So I have often made the complexity point to Scotrail, although I don't think it ever makes its way past the customer service personnel. I know things go wrong, and many of them are outside Scotrail's control, but the recovery is very poor. I've said that in the past here, and been criticized for not realizing its a network. I do realize its a network, but one designed to sweat the assets as much as possible, and with no resilience built in. Surely when you know that part of the network will fail every day, then you need to have planned ability to recover quickly. BTW I travel on the blessed GLQ-EDB line, its better now, but still prone to fail om occasion, and it was a crawling horror in the past, and it takes a long time before you get out of the reflex habit of checking every hour if the system is still running OK
 

InOban

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There's an old mantra 'When you reorganise you bleed'. I don't believe that dropping t
Abellio will improve anything. The constraints on the capacity of the network to deliver a robust service are well known to Transport Scotland. They made the mistake of believing Angel trains and Wabtec; they didn't realise how many traincrew would be poached by other TOCs who found that cheaper than training their own.
 
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I live in Fife, and while I don't get the train into Edinburgh as much as I used to, I can vouch by personal experience, friends and family's stories and articles in my local newspaper that the service on the Fife Circle is awful.

2 carriage trains in the peak and during events like rugby and the Fringe, trains cancelled minutes before they were due to arrive, ancient Mk2s being used on peak time services. As an enthusiast I enjoy the novelty of a loco-hauled service, but to the normal commuter old carriages are not ideal. The interiors of the Mk2s still feel like they're stuck in the 70s.

Hopefully whoever the new operator is can focus on the east coast more than Abellio have.

I heard a rumour a while ago that CalMac (or at least some sort of subsidiary of CalMac) were looking into running Scotland's railway.

Any evidence of or thoughts on this?
I live in East Lothian but know various people who are in the same unfortunate position as you. The Fife Circle does seem to have the worst service of all lines.
 

pdeaves

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tbtc

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Abellio have adjusted the timetables though, especially on the North Clyde. Under First it was Helensburgh to Edinburgh stopping everywhere except Bowling, Garscadden etc, Balloch to Airdrie stopping everywhere and Milngavie to Edinburgh stopping practically nowhere east of the city. The new TT has balanced out the passenger loads between the empty Milngavie trains and the busier Helensburgh ones but it’s lost the clock face schedule east of Queen Street and having Dumbarton P3 in constant use means it’s not as usable for turn backs. The diagrams on the Argyle line are hideous. I traced them once and it looked like about a 5 hour tour of Lanarkshire and Dunbartonshire before they repeated. There are or were 2 sets of them too, not every train reaches every point during the day. Abellio have also started doing driver changes at Central low level- I’ve yet to see one of these fail, but it must happen. Basically a load of complexity has been added to something that was already hideously complicated & there seems to be an assumption that everything will always go to plan. Whether anyone else would have been better is anyone’s guess, First had their own spectacular messes (A2B launch?)
Interesting points - driver changes at Central Low Level seems as dangerous as Northern's equivalent staff swaps at Manchester Oxford Road.

But the services through Partick seem incredibly complicated (with units not necessarily returning to the starting point for some time), given the way that four trains per hour now run through to Edinburgh plus the Whifflet services are no longer a self contained shuttle as far as Central (High Level) but intertwined with the other Partick routes... it must be tempting fate to try to squeeze so many services through there, but the same will be true of any future operator I suppose - good to see that they have tried taking some action though (especially given what a danger the line to Milngavie can be on performance).

So I have often made the complexity point to Scotrail, although I don't think it ever makes its way past the customer service personnel. I know things go wrong, and many of them are outside Scotrail's control, but the recovery is very poor. I've said that in the past here, and been criticized for not realizing its a network. I do realize its a network, but one designed to sweat the assets as much as possible, and with no resilience built in. Surely when you know that part of the network will fail every day, then you need to have planned ability to recover quickly. BTW I travel on the blessed GLQ-EDB line, its better now, but still prone to fail om occasion, and it was a crawling horror in the past, and it takes a long time before you get out of the reflex habit of checking every hour if the system is still running OK
True - this is another one of those networks where the focus seems to have been on as many direct links as possible, rather than simple services - you could try tidying up a few lines (e.g. ensuring that all Central services ran via Anniesland and all Queen Street services ran via Garscadden, to try to minimise disruption) but it's a bit of a Gourdian Knot.

The Fife Circle does seem to have the worst service of all lines.
It does seem to be the "South TPE" of ScotRail, the ignored area that isn't getting the investment that other lines are getting (new trains, electrification... but not for Fife... the only "new" they are getting is the refurbished bits of the 1970s HSTs which pass through Fife Circle stations non-stop)

Can't see this changing under a future operator though (sadly)
 

mark-h

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As a matter of interest, there are two OLRs, imaginatively called SOLR1 Limited and SOLR2 Limited
seems they've had it warming in the oven for over 10 years
Are these for services other than national rail services? If not then it would seem overkill having two available until the sleeper services became independent from Scotrail 5 years ago.
 

pdeaves

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Are these for services other than national rail services? If not then it would seem overkill having two available until the sleeper services became independent from Scotrail 5 years ago.
No, just national rail. I suppose whoever did the formalities of setting the companies up was looking ahead and doing two at once is no more effort than just one and infinitely less effort than doing a second at another time.
 

Meerkat

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The decision was based on increasing cost. Does this mean Abellio had, and took, an option to raise subsidy for the last three years, and therefore constructively dismissed themselves?
If they are currently losing money they must be negotiating an early termination, though SG might not want that for timing reasons.
Two scenarios.
1) there is a competition including a public bid. It has to be fair or it’s going to court, so unlikely that cost can be higher and therefore a public operator will be no different from a private one. The alleged ‘extra’ cost of profit, that is ‘saved’, will disappear in inefficiency, public interference, and union claims.
2) there is no competition as bidders foresee a fix. Are they allowed a one bidder competition?

Are the SG really willing to take control and lose the insulation of a nasty private company to blame?
 

hwl

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Are the SG really willing to take control and lose the insulation of a nasty private company to blame?
They might be that silly and are too young to remember the MP asking the SoS/Minister why their train was late in the commons!
 

47271

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A very lengthy and not particularly well written 'exclusive' on performance fines and Abellio Scotrail in today's Herald.

The scale of fines is an indication of Abellio's penny wise and pound foolish approach to the operation. Other than that, the usual suspects rant and rave, but I'm not sure if it brings anything new to the discussion.

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18113583.revealed-abellios-11m-fines-years-scotrail-failure/

Revealed: Abellio's £11m fines for years of ScotRail failure

THE extent of Dutch state rail operator Abellio's failure to meet required train and station standards for Scotland 's rail passengers has been laid bare as it has emerged it has racked up over £11.4m in penalties since it took over ScotRail.

In the last full financial year, the Dutch rail operator which runs ScotRail was fined £3.99m - nearly seven times as much as was handed to FirstGroup in its full final year of running the previous ScotRail franchise.

It comes as it emerged that Abellio could yet bid for the ScotRail franchise in 2022 - despite the Scottish Government calling a halt to its current contract three years early.


Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has confirmed if no changes are made to current franchising arrangements by the UK Government, the Dutch firm could make a fresh bid to run the services again. The Herald understands Abellio has not ruled it out.

Meanwhile Abellio told the Herald there are "many projects and investments" such as preparing for a fully decarbonised railway by 2035 that will be "delayed or put at risk" with a change in control of the ScotRail franchise.


Abellio controversially took over from FirstGroup, after the Aberdeen-based company had run most Scottish rail services for some 10 years. The ten year deal was worth up to £6 billion in what was then the biggest single contract every awarded by the Scottish Government.

The decision, hailed by then Scottish transport minister, Keith Brown as a "world leading contract to deliver for rail staff and passengers" had triggered a political row, with unions and Labour condemning the award to an overseas company rather than the Scottish-based firm.

The extent of the penalties imposed on Abellio came as passenger growth and higher charges from Network Rail - which is in charge of the rail infrastructure - were quoted among the factors that led to Abellio ScotRail making a pre-tax loss of £17.9 million in 2017.

The level of penalties over standards on trains and stations handed out by Scottish Government quango Transport Scotland imposed in the last two years of the franchise was £8.64m eclipsing the £2.76m levied in their first year and nine months. In its full final year of running the previous ScotRail franchise, First was fined £576,000 (2014/15) under the performance regime.

The ScotRail report card shows Abellio ScotRail - which made a pre-tax loss of £17.9 million in 2017 - failed to reach the required standards in service to the public in 22 benchmarking areas out of 38 standards in the final three months of 2018/19.

The failures included station lights, station CCTV and security, litter, station timetables and information, station and train toilets, car parks and taxi ranks, help points, phones, train seats, racks and other passenger facilities, train cleanliness, graffiti, board and passenger information displays, public address systesm, train doors, the seat reservation system, and ticket inspections.

Transport Scotland inspectors audit over 350 stations and approximately 200 trains every four weeks and fines are reinvested into the rail network Transport union TSSA has called for ScotRail to be brought into public ownership immediately with a department of the Scottish Government taking control of railways "in house".


Union general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Abellio’s time at ScotRail has been marked by a series of broken records. The poorest performance since records began in 1997. The greatest number of passenger refunds claimed in a year. And, not forgetting, the highest ticket prices charged!

“It is no surprise that Abellio has racked up over £11.4million in penalties. The only surprise is that it has taken Transport Minister Matheson so long to cancel their contract.

“Unfortunately, passengers eager for an improvement in service will be waiting a long time yet. Now Abellio know they’re losing the contract in 2022 they have even less incentive to improve before then.

"Mr Matheson needs to do the smart thing and end the contract right now. Only a publicly run ScotRail can deliver the improvements Scotland’s passengers deserve.”

Jane Ann Lison, secretary of Railfuture Scotland added: "While it is disappointing that Abellio fell short in so many categories, it is good to know that there is a mechanism in place to ensure that standards be maintained."

The announcement to strip Abellio of the ScotRail franchise came a day after the Herald revealed it had delivered its poorest monthly performance in a year - off the back of introducing a new fleet of greener and faster trains to help create "the best railway Scotland has ever had".

But in ScotRail's latest monthly report, the incidents reported that caused significant delays and cancellations in the latest monthly period which runs from November 10 to December 7 were all issues that were the responsibility of Network Rail, which runs the rail infrastructure.


An Abellio spokesman said that while the company admitted they have had their challenges in delivering on a "massive investment" they thought a corner had been turned.

"Abellio has invested more than £475million in new and upgraded trains, added 23 per cent more seats for customers and created more than 500 extra jobs in Scotland since the start of the franchise in 2015 - the biggest investment in trains and stations in over 150 years," said an Abellio spokesman.

"The next five years is a vital period in the life of Scotland’s Railway. Transport Scotland will be aware that there are many projects and investments such as preparing for a fully decarbonised railway by 2035 that will be delayed or put at risk with a change in control of the ScotRail franchise."


When Mr Brown announced Abellio's arrival he emphasised Abellio’s green and social credentials – including plans for reduced fares for jobseekers, a commitment to a living wage for staff and sub-contractors, and guaranteed trade union representation – and plans for more trains, free wifi, and advance £5 fares between any two Scottish cities.


He said the contract would “benefit the whole of Scotland”, with unused station buildings transformed into premises for start-up businesses, locally sourced food and drink used for on-train catering, and a new Scottish training academy.

“These exciting plans mean that our railways will continue to be innovative, passenger-led and a hugely important driver in Scotland’s long-term success and sustainability," he said.

“Scotland’s railway has attracted a world leading contract to deliver for rail staff and passengers. We’ve already ensured that regulated rail fares will stay in line with inflation or less, and Abellio has come up with some truly innovative ways to make rail even more affordable."

But he warned that there was a provision for the government to cancel the contract at the halfway point, if Abellio failed to meet its obligations.
 
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hwl

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1) there is a competition including a public bid. It has to be fair or it’s going to court, so unlikely that cost can be higher and therefore a public operator will be no different from a private one. The alleged ‘extra’ cost of profit, that is ‘saved’, will disappear in inefficiency, public interference, and union claims.
2 sub scenarios for that one:
a) they get taken to court and lose
b) they win (some how avoid court or win in court) having screwed the bid up so badly that it actually ends up costing TS far more than a franchisee and they then end up cutting back on all the exciting improvements they put in the bid.
 
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