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Uncertainty could leave rail franchise short on bidders

November 17, 2011 3:00 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Willie Rennie, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has warned that constitutional uncertainty may cause real harm for Scotland's rail passengers post 2014.

Willie Rennie MSPWillie Rennie MSPThis issue, which Mr Rennie first raised on Tuesday, was once again put to Mr Salmond at First Minister's Questions.

The danger of such a short term approach triggered by the constitutional uncertainty is that operators will not want to bid for the 2014 franchise and that rail passengers will not be able to insist on improvements from the operator.

Commenting, Mr Rennie said:

"Ruth was right to raise with the First Minister the point I raised yesterday to highlight the chaos that his own government's agency is proposing for Scotland's rail network.

"Much of the chaos is due to the short-sightedness that constitutional uncertainly forces on decision making and long term planning.

"The First Minister's first priority is to split Scotland from our strong relationship with the rest of the UK.

"If he achieves this then a rail franchise that began in 2014 would have to be renegotiated only two or three years later, when the SNP expect Scotland to be a separate country.

"No operator in their right mind would bid on a franchise that was so ludicrously short. A two to five year contract is no use to anyone.

"The cost to Scotland's rail network in the long term could be hugely damaging. We need long term thinking to secure the better trains with the better services operating on more routes that passengers across Scotland are screaming out for.

"The Scottish Government should recognise that their own agency is blaming constitutional uncertainty for short term thinking on railways. Ministers should stop the short-term thinking, put passengers first and accept that a franchise needs to be long enough for us to insist that the train operator improves the experience of passengers.

"The constitutional uncertainty is of the SNP's own making and clearly puts a better rail network in jeopardy, which is certainly not in the long term interests of Scotland."