Dumfries & Galloway MP Russell Brown and Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray have expressed their disappointment that the region will see little major improvement to rail services, following the news that the Scottish Government had awarded the ScotRail franchise to Dutch firm Abellio.
The local politicians are seeking a meeting with the company to discuss the impact of the franchise on the region’s services.
Although the new franchise includes significant investment in new trains in the central belt and in stations in the north of Scotland, there is only a pledge to refurbish existing carriages on services in Dumfries and Galloway, despite the carriages on the Nith Valley line being some of the poorest quality in the country.
A commitment has also been made to introduce a 2 hourly services from Stranraer station, however there will be fewer direct services to Glasgow, with passengers having to change in Ayr.
A number of other smaller improvements have been included such as the introduction of a catering service on the Nith Valley line and both routes in the region have been awarded Scenic Rail Service status.
The local politicians, along with Transport unions, including the RMT, TSSA and ASLEF also believe that the awarding of the contract should have been delayed until after the devolution of further transport powers to the Scottish Parliament, which would have allowed the Scottish Government to to accept a non-profit bid.
Commenting on the franchise deal, Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray said:
“I am disappointed that the Scottish Government did not postpone the awarding of the contact until after new powers came to the Scottish Parliament which would have allowed them to choose a not for profit bid. In awarding the ScotRail franchise to Abellio, the SNP have decided that the profits from Scotland's railways should be used to invest in lower fares and better services in Holland rather than here at home.
When I met with Abellio before the franchise was awarded, they listened carefully to the issues I raised regarding poor services here. Unfortunately, their announcement contains very little in improved services for this area. Whilst other parts of Scotland are receiving massive investment in new carriages and station improvements, trains on the Nith Valley line will get a lick of paint and a trolley catering service. That will leave the route with some of poorest and slowest carriages in Scotland. It is frankly shocking that if someone from Dumfries wants to travel to Glasgow, it is quicker for them to drive to Lockerbie and get a train theirthan it is to get a train from Dumfries to Glasgow. Once again Dumfries and Galloway is being forgotten by the Scottish Government and all we are getting are the crumbs off the table”
Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown, “This was very much a missed opportunity for Scotland’s railways, and I’m really disappointed that the Scottish Government did not wait until they could have chosen a not for profit option. Since 2008, ScotRail have made £100 million in profits with £95 million going to shareholders. That is money that would be better spent improving services from areas such as Stranraer”.
“There are a small number of positives from the franchise but it’s clear that as far as Dumfries and Galloway is concerned, the company are proposing what was the bear minimum required to meet the franchise criteria. Hopefully, we will now see the long awaited Community Rail partnership being taken forward, which is positive for the Stranraer to Ayr line and the introduction of a 2 hourly services is improvement but that comes at the loss of direct service from Stranraer to Glasgow.”
“Although the company has been quick to highlight that they plan to invest in services in the central belt and the north of Scotland, they have been very quiet when it comes to Dumfries and Galloway. We will therefore be seeking an early meeting with Abellio to discuss in detail what they plan for our region and crucially what their timescale is. For example, what will the opportunities be for local businesses as a result of the designation of some routes as Scenic Rail service status.”