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Termination remains a possibility for ScotRail

THERE are new calls north of the border for complete rail devolution, while one senior minister has complained that he has ‘one hand tied behind my back’.

ScotRail announced a Remedial Plan on 22 March after receiving warnings over performance from Transport Scotland on 24 December and 8 February, and MSPs have been discussing it today.

The operator said it would be investing £18 million on improvements, including recruiting more frontline staff, with an extra 55 drivers and 30 conductors being hired during 2019. There will be an increased focus on reliability, including three additional HSTs to provide extra resilience and support training.

£500,000 will be spent every year on a Performance Improvement Fund, and ScotRail Alliance managing director Alex Hynes said: ‘Improving the service our customers receive is the priority. I am confident that this plan will deliver significant improvements.’

MSPs have been discussing various aspects of performance, including skip-stopping as well as low levels of passenger satisfaction.

Transport, infrastructure and connectivity secretary Michael Matheson said ScotRail would go into default if the targets were not met. He continued: ‘At that point the Scottish government can consider termination, but the decision will be dependent on what the reason for the default is.

‘If it becomes clear ScotRail is incapable of delivering on the contract, then we will look at termination.

Mr Matheson also said the Scottish government is to consider a public sector-run railway, which some MSPs are calling for in the wake of the ScotRail problems.

He has complained recently of having ‘one hand tied behind my back’ and has called for complete rail devolution. However, he admitted to MSPs today: ‘We can’t just take back control of it because we don’t have the powers to be able to do that.’

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