Scottish Government Ownership from early 2022

ScotRail services will move into Scottish Government ownership when the ScotRail franchise ends, currently expected to be in March 2022. The services will be provided within the public sector, by an arm’s length company owned and controlled by the Scottish Government.

This is a result of the Scottish Government’s decision to run ScotRail services through what is known as the ‘Operator of Last Resort’. ScotRail staff will transfer to the new Scottish Government owned entity, with their terms and conditions protected.

Emergency Measures Agreement

In April 2020 the Scottish Government put in place an Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA) which made a temporary variation to the ScotRail franchise agreement. This minimised disruption to passengers and rail employees during the COVID-19 outbreak and allowed rail passenger services to continue to operate during this period. The EMA expired in September 2020. A further EMA was put in place at that point and it will expire on 31 March 2021.

Recognising the continued significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related public health measures on rail passenger services, work is now underway to put in place a further EMA for the period 1 April until September 2021.

The ScotRail franchise operates around 2,400 train services each day and delivers over 93 million passenger journeys per year. It is the single biggest contract let by Scottish Ministers, worth a total value of over £7 billion over 10 years.

In October 2014, the franchise was awarded to Abellio. Operations commenced on April 1 2015. The renewal programme documents all of the background information on the procurement process.

The ScotRail franchise covers all services in Scotland apart from services by other operators that cross the Anglo-Scottish border (Virgin, East Coast, TransPennine, Cross Country and the Caledonian Sleeper). ScotRail does operate services to Carlisle.

Rail franchising in Great Britain was created by the Railways Act 1993. Franchising allows a private operator to provide rail services on the Scottish rail network on behalf of the Scottish Government.

Franchise commitments include:

  • the living wage as a minimum for all staff and subcontractors
  • at least 100 apprenticeships
  • guarantee of no compulsory redundancies throughout the life of the franchise contract
  • rail staff pensions and travel rights to be protected
  • introduction of guaranteed trade union representation on every franchise board meeting

Prior Information Notice – Abellio ScotRail Franchise

As the scale and pace of the recovery from the impact of the pandemic remains uncertain, a Prior Information Notice (PIN) has been published on PCS. This is a technical measure that stems from relevant procurement requirements.

This PIN is available at the link below and has been published as Ministers may, depending on circumstances and as set out in the PIN, wish to be able to make a direct award under Regulation 1370 / 2007, and not under the public procurement regime. By way of explanation, the references in the PIN to Directive 2014/24/EU, result from the requirements of the PCS portal rather than from procurement requirements in respect of a Temporary Measures Agreement, if awarded.

Prior Information Notice (PIN) – ScotRail Franchise Replacement

In line with the Parliamentary Statement made by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson, on 17 March 2021, and relevant procurement regulations, Scottish Ministers have published a PIN which confirms their intention for the Operator of Last Resort (OLR) to operate ScotRail services from 1 April 2022, following the expiry of the current ScotRail Franchise Agreement, currently expected to be 31 March 2022.

A core OLR period of three to five years is envisaged in the PIN, although Ministers’ ability to award a contract for up to ten years (the maximum award duration available) is preserved.

Please note that the PIN published on PCS (and available at the link below) envisages a direct award under Regulation 1370 / 2007, and not under the public procurement regime. By way of explanation, the references in the PIN to Directive 2014/24/EU, result from the requirements of the PCS portal rather than from procurement requirements in respect of the envisaged award.

Decision making

Documents relating to the ScotRail franchise agreement can be found in the Public Register. Regular meetings are held with Abellio ScotRail to discuss franchise performance. We publish all the minutes of these meetings.

Previous franchise arrangements

The previous rail franchise was held by First ScotRail. This ended on 31 March 2015 and all documents relating to this franchise can be found in the Public Register. In addition, you can also read all the meeting minutes from regular meetings with First ScotRail.

The results for the Service Quality Incentive Regime (SQUIRE) for the First ScotRail franchise are also available. More detailed information can also be found on the Network Rail website.

Improving ScotRail


As part of the franchise contract, Abellio ScotRail are making significant investment in improving Scotland's railway stations. This involved upgrading passenger facilities such as:

  • better waiting facilities
  • additional and upgraded CCTV cameras
  • new customer information screens
  • new ticket vending machines
  • additional car parking spaces
  • retail facilities

Abellio ScotRail is continuing to improve and enhance cycle facilities at railway stations across the rail network. This will help businesses, passengers and visitors to integrate with other modes of transport.

To support environmental improvements, Abellio ScotRail has installed electric charging bays at a number of stations to promote low emission car usage.

Train fleet

Abellio have an ambitious programme underway to improve the train fleet over the course of its franchise commitment. Their programme will make rail travel more attractive to commuters, tourists and leisure travellers by enhancing performance and on-board facilities across the fleet.

The number of seats on ScotRail's routes will increase by 23% by 2019 and from 800 up to 1050 carriages in the fleet. Abellio's improvements to the fleet will include:

  • 70 new electric Hitachi trains rolled out between summer 2018 and summer 2019 across the central belt – 35 in service by December 2018
  • 26 high speed trains to operate on inter-city routes serving 7 cities to be gradually introduced from October 2018 supported by an interim fleet of 11 “Classic” HSTs
  • 12 class 320/4s to increase seating capacity on the Glasgow suburban electrified routes last units due into service April 2019
  • 2 loco hauled services for Fife circle featuring new class 68 locos and mark 3 coaches [6 cars] all to be in ScotRail livery
  • all existing Electric Multiple Units fleet class 318/ class 320/ class 334/ class 380s now have Wi-Fi, power sockets, passenger counting equipment fitted
  • 40 class 158 trains significantly enhanced by December 2018 to support the Great Scenic Railways of Scotland package on Borders, Far North, Kyle and West Highlands routes from December 2017 delivering accessible WC, wheelchair space, bay seating, air conditioning upgrade, seat covers, flooring, lighting, maps on tables, information screens, decals, painting, counting equipment and re-livery
  • 42 class 156s refurbishment programme complete in summer 2019 for Great Scenic Railways of Scotland package on Glasgow-Stranraer and Dumfries/Carlisle routes
  • 34 class 170s retained beyond December 2018 with a refresh programme completed

ScotRail rolling stock fleet totals

Dec-18 Electric Diesel
Class of train C314 C318 C320 C334 C380 C365 C385 C156 C158 C170
No. of cars per train 3 3 3 3 3 + 4 4 3 + 4 2 2 3
Max speed [mph] 75 90 90 90 100 100 100 75 90 100
Leased trains in fleet 11 21 34 40 22+16 10 16+19 46+24 48 40 34 + (5)*
Year Built 1979 1986 1990 2000 2010 2004 2018-19 1988 1990 1998-2005
Pax Info. System no yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
Toilets per train 0 1 1 1 2 2 2 1 2 2
CCTV no yes yes yes yes no yes yes yes yes
* [x5] c170s subleased from GTR

SQUIRE performance measuring

Monitoring performance is a key aspect of the franchise. Transport Scotland monitors the franchisee's quality of service through the Service Quality Incentive Regime (SQUIRE), which is a customer-focused scheme that measures the qualities of facilities at stations and on trains.

SQUIRE has seen several changes within the framework of the new ScotRail franchise, most notably the widening of parameters of the payments and penalties. Additionally, there have also been changes to some benchmark levels, methodologies and the introduction of new aspects within the audit.

The Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver continued customer improvements is reflected in tougher measurements, benchmarks, financial penalties and incentives which inhibit direct comparisons between the SQUIRE results of the previous franchise and the current one.

The alliance between ScotRail and Network Rail will deliver efficient joint processes. This should lead to more faults being addressed within compliance days. In addition, issues not measured within SQUIRE will be tackled as part of routine repair and cleaning.

All penalties from SQUIRE are retained in a fund for re-investment into the Scottish Rail Network. This fund is not used for repairs but for qualitative improvements or new facilities by agreement between both Transport Scotland and ScotRail.

The SQUIRE system ensures improvements are made across facilities, services and fault repairs.

SQUIRE Inspections have been suspended since March 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions and will resume when Government guidelines allow it to do so.

The ScotRail brand

Pull into any Scottish station or ride any trains in our fleet and you'll be greeted with ScotRail's fresh, distinctive look. Our brand is a dynamic representation of the Saltire, the iconic, world-famous symbol for Scotland.

The ScotRail brand was launched on 22 September 2008 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the ScotRail name. By the end of that year, every leaflet, timetable and poster carried the new look for the brand.

The branding ensures that Scotland's trains have a consistent look for the first time. You can see it in all the stations and trains we manage, and was implemented during routine maintenance so we can deliver it without any additional cost to taxpayers.

The brand delivers savings to taxpayers by providing a consistent look which will not change with new franchise operators. In the past, trains and stations were rebranded with each new franchise, which proved expensive, disruptive and unnecessary. The fragmented appearance also created confusion for the public with differing signage, colours and brands, so a clear and consistent visual identity was created for ScotRail.

Every new fleet that ScotRail launches will contain the Saltire livery, while the existing trains have all been updated during general maintenance work.

ScotRail Franchise renewal programme (2013-2015)

On 8 October 2014, Keith Brown, the then Minister for Transport and Veterans announced the intent to award the new ScotRail Franchise to Abellio. The contract was signed on 18 October 2014 and Abellio ScotRail began operating services in April 2015. Further information on the procurement of the ScotRail franchise is provided below.

To access the suite of Franchise Agreement documents provided by Abellio see the Public Register.

For more information about the innovations and improvements the new contract will bring see the ScotRail franchise brochure

ScotRail Franchise ITT

The ScotRail Franchise Invitation to Tender was issued in January 2014. Transport Scotland received five returned Bids in April 2014.


The Scottish Ministers set out the policy objectives for the ScotRail franchise as follows:

  • Ensure value for money.
  • Secure industry alignment to increase effectiveness and reduce costs.
  • Exploit utility and capacity of the network.
  • Improve journey times and connectivity.
  • Manage change effectively.
  • Improve passenger satisfaction.
  • Improve environmental performance.
  • Improve accessibility to services and stations.

Commercial proposition

The following is an outline of the specification: 

  • The new ScotRail Franchise will be for a term of up to 10 years with a review and a decision by the end of the fifth year to decide whether the franchise will terminate at the end of year 7 or 10.
  • There will be a detailed minimum service level specification which bidders will be required to meet.
  • Bidders will be required to offer proposals on how they will stimulate and achieve growth of off-peak patronage leading to better overall utilisation of the rail services.
  • There will be a regulated fares framework for peak and off-peak services, with freedom to set fares for ‘commercial’ ticket types, e.g. First Class and promotions.
  • Transport Scotland anticipates a collaborative working relationship in order to achieve maximum mutual benefits with the successful franchisee from capital investment in the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Project (EGIP), further extensions of the electrified network and the Borders Railway Project.
  • Bidders will be offered quality incentives based on the existing SQUIRE regime, augmented by incentives based on the National Passenger Satisfaction survey.
  • Bidders will be required to achieve a minimum performance of 92% ppm increasing to 92.5% by year 4 of the franchise.
  • Bidders will be required to purchase or lease suitable rolling stock for each of the Service Groups, which will deliver the specified levels of passenger environment and facilities. The condition shall be maintained by phased updates and refurbishment. Bidders will also be responsible for procuring the Rolling Stock for the EGIP Electrification Programme.
  • Bidders will be required to expand, fully develop and exploit the smartcard infrastructure already being installed in Scotland.
  • Bidders will be required to provide wi-fi capability on all trains.
  • Bidders will be encouraged to engage with Network Rail to consider the benefits of an Alliance or other collaborative working relationships, though this will not be a mandatory requirement.
  • Bidders will be required to achieve a minimum specification of transport integration with other modes and play a key role in securing further integration over the term.
  • Bidders will be asked to provide financial security of a size that is commensurate with the scale of the franchise and its importance to Scotland.

Procurement programme: Key dates

  • July 2013: OJEU notice issued
  • August 2013: Submission of PQQs by bidders
  • November 2013: Issue draft ITT for consultation
  • November 2013: Bidders' responses to draft ITT consultation
  • January 2014: ITT issued
  • April 2014: Submission of ITT responses by bidders
  • October 2014: Winning bidder notified and mobilisation commences
  • April 2015: Franchise commencement


Transport integration

The Scottish Government has a strong focus on improving connections between modes of transport. It helps make public transport a more attractive and convenient alternative to private cars.

Customers are concerned with the journey as a whole - not just the rail part. That is why we work closely with our industry partners to maximise the benefits of rail travel within a fully integrated transport system. We meet regularly with ScotRail to ensure that journey times and connections are maintained and improved wherever possible, and to exchange information on integration matters.

Connecting rail passenger services with other transport modes is central to encouraging people to travel by public transport. Improved on-site cycle parking facilities allow more people to cycle to and from stations, supporting more first and last mile active travel journeys into town centres. A number of large scale cycle points at key stations such as Aberdeen, Stirling and Glasgow Queen Street are currently being delivered.

ScotRail does not directly operate cycle hire facilities at stations, but they continue to work closely with third-party providers to help integrate new cycle hire sites at, or close to stations where possible. These hire schemes further improve connections and provide active first and last mile journey options. ScotRail has previously developed station travel plans to deliver improved transport integration at 20 stations.

Smart and integrated ticketing


We published our Smart and Integrated Ticketing and Payments Delivery Strategy in 2018. It sets out the Scottish Government’s long term vision, that:

all journeys on Scotland’s bus, rail, ferry, subway and tram networks can be made using some form of smart ticketing or payment

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 introduced a number of provisions that will enhance ticketing schemes across Scotland. These include connecting modes and stronger powers for local transport authorities, to ensure ticketing schemes meet public need.

As part of the franchise agreement with Scottish Ministers, ScotRail committed to a comprehensive programme of smart ticketing across Scotland’s railways.


ScotRail’s smartcard has been introduced on all routes and is available for the majority of ticket types. Passengers can buy tickets online which is: 

  • faster and easier with no need to queue at the ticket office
  • more secure against lost and stolen cards

Smartcards can be used on different modes of transport and across multiple operators. This will help reduce the number of paper tickets and plastic smartcards being produced.

We continue to work with ScotRail and other partners across the transport industry to:

  • enhance the passenger experience
  • simplify and improve access to the network
  • increase the use of smart ticketing and payments

Rail Franchise performance meeting minutes

Regular meetings are held with Abellio ScotRail to discuss franchise performance and the minutes of these meetings are published.