Union backs Scotland public test trial

12 April 2007

News emerged yesterday that not-for-profit Network Rail has been talking to ministers north of the border about taking control of trains as well as track in Scotland. The move, which has ASLEF support, could be used as a test-case for the rest of UK rail.

The union’s Scottish Organiser Kevin Lindsay says, ‘We have been fighting for years to see Scotland’s rail returned to public hands and while the current proposal isn’t our ideal position, it would be a major step forward.’ Keith Norman insists that it is a perfect opportunity for an in-depth trial which could ‘mark the beginning of the end of UK rail’s ‘fragmented, profit-motivated and inefficient’ privatisation experiment.

Labour’s Scottish election manifesto, published on Tuesday, contains a thinly veiled reference to the idea of Scotland pioneering a new structure for the rail industry, saying, ‘The case for running the Scottish franchise on a not-for-profit basis needs to be fully examined as part of the preparation for the next franchise.’

The Times reported that Network Rail’s next Chief Executive, Iain Coucher, held private talks with senior Labour politicians at the party’s Scottish conference in November and indicated that Network Rail would be willing to cooperate with plans to reintegrate Scotland’s tracks and trains. A new integrated operation could be introduced in 2011, when First ScotRail’s franchise is due to be renegotiated.

Scotland would be ideal for a trial of this nature because its network is largely self-contained, with more than 90 per cent of services run by First ScotRail. The only exceptions are the crossborder long-distance trains run by Virgin and GNER, which would not be included in the test.

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