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by Tom Freeman
22 November 2016
Humza Yousaf agrees to make statement on Scotrail

Humza Yousaf agrees to make statement on Scotrail

Under-fire Transport Minister Humza Yousaf will make a statement to MSPs on rail strategy after coming under pressure from Scottish Labour and trade unions.

A train breakdown last week created widespread disruption for commuters and led to calls for Yousaf to resign.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologised for the situation at FMQs.

Scottish Labour had called for Yousaf to make an emergency statement in the Scottish Parliament on the future of the Scotrail franchise, and one has now been tabled for Wednesday 23 November.

Dutch rail operator Abellio was awarded the contract last year but issues with punctuality and reliability led to Transport Scotland requesting an improvement plan from the firm.

Yousaf suggested at the weekend that Scotrail could be brought under public ownership when a five-year option to cancel the contract kicked in.

He said he wanted to discuss the situation with opposition MSPs. 

"I will be proposing to make a statement to Parliament this week  so all parties can discuss how we improve our rail services.  I also reiterate my offer to the rail unions, opposition politicians, and public sector organisations to meet me to discuss the possible shape of a public sector franchise bid.  I am prepared to work with anyone who is serious about improving rail services," he said.

“I am focussed on holding ScotRail to account for improving journey times and services now and on delivering our longer term commitments to revolutionise rail travel in Scotland."

Abellio had been left "in no doubt about the need for improvements, and the seriousness of my intent", he added.

The company said that because Network Rail is already public, ministers currently "set fares and essentially determine how many seats are available and therefore how much overcrowding exists across the network”.

Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Neil Bibby said Yousaf had responded to his call for an emergency statement.

“When the SNP awarded the contract to run our railways to Abellio, SNP ministers said it was a 'world leading' deal. It is clearly nothing of the sort, and that is why it is right that MSPs have the chance to quiz the minister on behalf of rail travellers," he said.

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