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[ 06-12-2012 ]

Commenting on today’s ministerial announcement regarding the Scotrail franchise Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:
On the current franchise extension: 
“There was much to welcome in Keith Brown’s statement today.  A short extension to the existing franchise is a sensible response to concerns voiced by Scottish Chambers of Commerce, among others, that preparations for the procurement process were as yet inadequate.  The Scottish Government have committed now to begin procurement in summer 2013, with the operator handover to take place on 31 March 2015.
“The Minister committed to providing further details about the franchise specifications early in 2013, so we hope that the extra time gives the Scottish Government the opportunity to respond to the calls that Scottish Chambers of Commerce have made to ensure that the new franchise delivers a level of service that fulfils the needs of Scottish businesses.
On the new franchise length:
“We have previously called for the new franchise to last a minimum of twelve years, in order to provide sufficient time to make real investment in Scotland’s rail network an attractive option for the new franchise holder.  We must therefore at least partially welcome the Minister’s announcement of a ten year franchise to begin in 2015.  A long term franchise is key to developing productive partnerships between business and government that encourage innovation, new solutions and modernised, flexible services across Scotland’s rail network.
On fare rises:
“Scottish Chambers of Commerce welcome the successful agreement with First Scotrail to cap peak time rail fare rises in 2014 and 2015.  Keeping rail fares down helps consumers and businesses.  We therefore particularly welcome the commitment to freezing off peak fares as a boost to those businesses in the tourism sector that should benefit from the increased trade that this should encourage.
On network improvements:
“It is also good to see that the Scottish Government now recognises the need to press on with projects within the Edinburgh Glasgow improvement programme beyond the Edinburgh to Glasgow route itself, so we welcome the announcement that works will commence on the Stirling-Alloa-Dunblane electrification project.  We hope that this heralds further acceleration in delivery of the wider EGIP commitments.
“Finally, SCC must also welcome the commitment to improved services around Aberdeen.  However, we continue to look to the new franchise to specify a requirement to provide further improvements to services north of Perth.  This part of the rail network in Scotland is, at present, essentially unfit for purpose; the Highlands and the North East of Scotland deserve better.
Next steps:
“SCC looks forward to engaging with the Scottish Government further as they work to refine the specifications for the forthcoming franchise procurement over the coming months.  We hope they take this opportunity to design a franchise that will really deliver for Scotland’s businesses.”