ScotFail contract may be reaching the end of the line, says MSP Baillie

Dumbarton Central Station, the German newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, and Scotrail services in action. 

By Bill Heaney

A report from the German newspaper, Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, shows that the problems that Scots are facing in their train services are also being experienced by their German counterparts.

Abellio’s problems with staff shortages are as common place in Germany as they are in Scotland. Abellio, which has the contract for ScotRail, is also facing similiar calls for the termination of their contract from German politicians as demanded by politicians in the Scottish Parliament.

Jackie Baillie, the MSP for Dumbarton, Lomond and Helensburgh, said: This report from Mitteldeautsche Zeitung echoes what I and colleagues from across the Scottish Parliament have been saying for months.

“Whether you live in Germany or Scotland, Abellio is not fit for purpose and something needs to change urgently. The staff shortages and lack of proper services that the German transport policy spokesperson raises is what we are seeing day in, day out, with our Scottish rail services. 

“My constituents and people from across Scotland have faced severe delays and disruption to their lives for months now due to the poor delivery of the Abellio contract. People are late for work, school college and important appointments and commitments are being missed

“Often when trains do appear they are short formed, with insufficient carriages to cope with rush hour demand. And all the time prices go up.

“The Scottish Government needs to get it’s head out of the sand and seriously reconsider the Abellio contract in order to improve the quality of service.”

The whole Mitteldeutsche Zeitung article on Abellio read as follows:

Politicians should terminate the contract with Abellio Halle

Abellio had first announced that it had to hire train drivers to secure the operation on additional 900 kilometres from December in Saxony-Anhalt.

Then, just before Christmas, the rail operator had to admit, that hiring temporary staff was not enough. And last week, it became known that the staff shortage is even greater than it was previously shown. The disaster at Abellio is growing – the problem caught the attention of the regional policymakers: The parliamentary factions of SPD and AfD demand the national transport company NASA to terminate the contract with the company, if Abellio does not get the problems under control. 

Abellio termination should be “seriously” tested

“We have to seriously consider a termination,” says the Parliamentary Managing Director of the SPD faction, Rüdiger Erben. Similarly, the transport policy spokesman of the AfD, Matthias Büttner: Abellio is obviously not able to provide its services, “that should have consequences.” According to Büttner, in the case of “continuous negligence”, the contract must be terminated.

Abellio had recently admitted that the problems are much bigger than it was previously known. Thus, 40 train drivers, 10 percent of the necessary staff, are missing. Therefore, until March 3, the company cancelled all trains on the Unstrut Railway.

Failures on other lines, which had still accumulated in December, should be avoided. The national transport company NASA, that has ordered the operation of Abellio and paid for its services, has not paid more than 200,000 euros to the operator because of the missing trains. That is contractually regulated: If there is no good performance, no money flows.

 NASA boss is against Abellio’ s contract termination for the time being

According to Rüdiger Malter, for the time being, it should remain with such financial sanctions. The boss of Nasa is against the termination of the contract. “We would then have to make sure that someone else serves the routes.”

However, there is no other operator available for now. The German railway as the biggest competitor of Abellio could not help out. He therefore also says: “We are currently not capable of handling this situation.”

In fact, the Nasa could not just terminate the contract with Abellio. There should be a warning before termination, according to Malter.

“We’re still thinking about it,” says the Nasa boss.

The company would thus set a deadline to solve the personnel problems – with the threat of termination. Such a case has already existed in Saxony-Anhalt: In the fall of 2015, Deutsche Bahn received a warning about massive train cancellations due to the shortage of train drivers. However, a contract termination could happen for the first time.



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