Should Abellio be allowed to run the ScotRail Franchise?

- Leadership - Jan 29, 2015

Transport franchise operator Abellio is set to take over from FristGroup in the running of Scotland’s trains on April 1, a move which a recent customer satisfaction survey suggests is bad news for current ScotRail passengers.

Abellio, which also runs a large part of London’s bus network, came second from last in terms of value for money regarding its Abellio Greater Anglia operation, which covers East London and northwards into East Anglia.

It scored a dire approval rating of just 37 percent for value for money, with the six-monthly poll also finding dissatisfaction with the state of trains and lack of staff. The consumer watchdog asked 27,000 passengers what they thought of their most recent journey.

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Out of the 35 questions used to determine passenger satisfaction levels in station and train facilities, Abellio Greater Anglia scored only three above-average results.

Not only will Abellio relocate its UK headquarters to Scotland, it is there on a 10-year contract.

Should Scottish rail commuters be worried? A great number of customers that frequent the likes of London Liverpool Street, Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester and Chelmsford will say that they should.

Although the company is conducting a large refurbishment programme for its London to Norwich mainline service, investment in new rolling stock looks a way off, at least until the long-term contracts kick in from October 2016.

The ongoing refurbishment of MkIII carriages is perhaps the minimum passengers can expect, although the fact most these trains are around 30 years old or older (they were built between 1975 and 1988) suggests that this is merely papering over cracks.

Abellio Greater Anglia Metro services have also been heavily criticised for being overcrowded, dirty and run on ageing trains subject to frequent train faults.

The ten year contract for Scotland’s rail operations may provide the security needed for Abellio to invest more in the network than it has done thus far in the East of England. Abellio says that it will have invested £31.5 million by the time the short East Anglian franchise ends in October 2016.

How will it compare to ScotRail managed by FirstGroup? 

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