Improved rail services during the Commonwealth Games in 2014 is just one of the major benefits secured for rail passengers across Scotland as part of a deal to extend the First ScotRail franchise, announced today.
As part of the three-year extension to November 2014, over £70 million will be returned to the Scottish Government to be spent on a host of new services and other enhancements for users of the Scottish rail network over the life of the franchise.
These include extending express services between Edinburgh and Glasgow and additional early morning services to allow passengers from Dumfries, Gourock, Ayr, Kilmarnock, Dunblane, Perth and Kirkcaldy to connect to services arriving in London before noon.
The deal with FirstGroup will also create and manage a £1 million “community
fund” to encourage small businesses and local communities to make the best use of empty station buildings.
Announcing the deal, Minister for Transport Stewart Stevenson said:
"I am delighted to announce this agreement reached between Scottish Ministers and First ScotRail which brings significant benefits to passengers and delivers value for money for the taxpayer.
"It provides further incentive for the operator to continue to grow Scotland’s railways but, importantly, protects passengers by introducing a cap after which a percentage of profits will be reinvested in services.
"This agreement has secured performance levels for the remainder of the franchise term and will see more than £70 million being returned to the Government for reinvestment over the same period.
"A set of exciting and varied initiatives has been secured at best value which we will implement as efficiently as possible over the life of the franchise."
The extension is down to the success of First ScotRail in delivering levels of performance above and beyond those set out in the original franchise agreement. It also provides an opportunity to build on these performance levels by using them as the benchmark for contracting future performance.
Mary Dickson, First ScotRail's managing director, attributed the franchise extension to the dedication of the First ScotRail team in delivering improvements and exceeding targets in areas such as punctuality and passenger growth.
She said: "I am delighted for our staff and our customers who will see real benefits from the franchise extension.
"It is a fitting tribute to the ongoing transformation which has seen improved performance, with a 50 per cent reduction in delays, and a 19 per cent increase in passenger numbers.
"We will now build on these successes with even more investment in Scotland's railway. Customer benefits will range from new train services and improved journey times to enhancements at stations.
"I am also delighted we will be involved in providing transport for the Commonwealth Games in 2014."
James King, of Passenger Focus, said:
"Scottish commuters and business users will welcome the benefits of services starting earlier and finishing later in the day from a variety of locations in Scotland to improve long distance connectivity, an extension of the 15 minute frequency between Edinburgh and Glasgow and additional services from Inverness."