On track

Written by on 12 November 2014 in Feature

Scotland’s rail service will begin a transformation from spring next year

“It’s my highest priority,” says Jeff Hoogesteger, chief executive of the Abellio Group, which last month was awarded the ScotRail franchise. The company is already operating trains in London, East Anglia, Merseyside and the north of England, as well as a bus operation covering parts of London and Surrey.

In mainland Europe, it runs buses in Holland, rail services in Germany and is bidding for a transport franchise in Sweden. Abellio is itself the international arm of Dutch Railways. As well as being Abellio’s chief executive, Hoogesteger also sits on the board of the Netherlands state-owned firm. But he told Holyrood “at the top of my list is the successful mobilisation of the new ScotRail franchise on 1 April 2015”.

The company had been working on the bid since 2012, when Hoogesteger took over as chief executive. “For two years our team has been on a journey across Scotland and met people from the Borders, across the seven cities and to the very peak of the Far North Line so that we could prepare a plan that would meet and exceed the expectations of the Scottish Government,” he says.

“When Abellio embarked on this journey we were under no illusion about the national significance of Scotland’s rail network. Two years later, we feel honoured that Scotland has entrusted Abellio with the crucial duty of running that network.”

Now a ‘mobilisation’ team is in place to take over next spring. Hoogesteger, who complimented Transport Scotland and Transport Minister Keith Brown on the way the procurement process was run and praised the existing ScotRail management and staff for the quality of service already offered, added: “We look forward to delivering significant new benefits for passengers under the next franchise.

“Highlights will include new trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh, upgraded intercity services, better connectivity and journey times, innovative new fares, major station investments, a £1million community rail programme and an employee gain share scheme. In addition, we aim to develop a strong relationship with Transport Scotland and Network Rail.”

The latter is described as ‘the Abellio way’; a strategic framework that provides a collaborative way of working with clients, stakeholders and each other. “We believe these are important differentiators in transforming the network,” said Hoogesteger.

As well as significant service and infrastructure improvements, customers can also look forward to the ‘Dutch experience’; a ‘door-to-door’ approach to travel incorporating both online – innovative information and ticketing systems – and offline – such as ‘bike and go’ hubs that, says Hoogesteger, will make it much easier for consumers to choose rail as their favoured travel option.

Hoogesteger has more than 28 years’ experience of leading and growing international companies. Previously, he was Dutch Railways’ corporate development director. He started his career in 1985 as co-founder of a group of transport and logistics companies, which he grew into a global operation. After selling the business, he joined leading parcel delivery group TNT in 2001, working in senior executive and board positions around the world.

Hoogesteger has built a reputation for his ability to understand clients’ needs and integrate them into successful business strategies. He is also known for his belief that active involvement in community projects should be a fundamental part of his companies’ approach to corporate responsibility.

“Our parent company has over 175 years of experience of running passenger rail services,” says Hoogesteger. “Through it, Abellio has developed a deep understanding of how an efficient, accessible and high quality rail network can increase the competitive edge of a nation. Our plans for ScotRail are designed to achieve exactly that.

“We now look forward to bringing every part of that experience to the management of Scotland’s national railway and making it a world-class exemplar for the future of passenger rail services.

“Abellio is extremely proud to have been awarded this very important franchise and I am, personally, very committed and determined to make an ever bigger success of the franchise than it is already today.”

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