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Bring Scotland's trains back into public ownership

A Public Future For Railways
Overview —

Scotland's trains are expensive, not reliable enough – and create private profits out of the pockets of passengers. We should own and run our own trains collectively in the public interest by bringing the ScotRail franchise back into public ownership.

Scotland’s rail system is currently structured in a complex manner, which mainly reflects the leg-acy of the Britain-wide privatisation experiment initiated by the Major Government’s 1993 Railways Act. For the past two decades, Scottish passenger services have been run by a succession of private and foreign state-owned train operating companies (TOCs), which in turn lease their rolling stock from privately-owned rolling stock operating companies (ROSCOs). Scottish rail infrastructure was also privatised, but is now once again publicly-owned by the UK public body Network Rail.

The privatised British rail system is an aberration both historically and internationally. Given the dominance in the Scottish Parliament of political parties open to the principle of public operation, the railways in Scotland should not have to contin-ue to conform to this model. Yet until recently, Holy-rood has had little ability to fundamentally alter the nature of the rail system in Scotland.

A publicly-owned Scotrail would be better placed to deliver beyond any specified, minimum obli-gations with regards to unprofitable social and environmental aspirations, and expansion to boost economic growth and activity, than current and past operators. Indeed public operation would also present an opportunity to incorporate greater responsiveness to social needs into governance structures.