A “VIABLE” public sector bid to take over the running of Scotland’s railway from Abellio is being worked on by Transport Minister Humza Yousaf.
The move comes as it emerged the Dutch firm’s top executive is now earning £265,000 a year following an inflation-busting pay rise.
Mr Yousaf invited trade unions and opposition parties to join him for talks on how to develop a public sector alternative.
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He spoke out as the latest performance data from ScotRail showed 86 per cent of trains arrived at their destination on time or were less than five minutes late from October 16 to November 12.
On Thursday, a train breakdown in Edinburgh caused widespread disruption for commuters and calls for his resignation.
If punctuality falls below 84.3 per cent for three consecutive four-week periods, the Scottish Government is contractually entitled to strip Abellio of the ScotRail contract.
But there is also a break clause allowing the contract to be terminated early in 2020 if Abellio’s performance is not up to standard.
Mr Yousef said: “I’m calling the unions this week, and indeed other political parties, to join me in a discussion about how we make and put together a public sector bid, that will be viable, that will be competitive.
“That could be ready for 2020 when the break clause comes.”
A loophole leftover from privatisation means UK-based public sector bodies are barred from bidding for rail franchises but not foreign public sector organisations, including Abellio’s parent company in Holland, Nederlandse Spoorwegen. The Scottish Government has promised to end this anomaly.
Meanwhile, it emerged Phil Verster, managing director of ScotRail-Network Rail umbrella body, the ScotRail Alliance, and the boss of Abellio in Scotland, received a pay rise of between £22,5000-33,000 this year, taking his basic salary to £265,000.
He also received an undisclosed bonus of up to £130,00. It makes him Scotland’s highest paid public sector boss.
Mick Hogg, Scottish organiser for the RMT rail union, said: “We have got trains cancelled left, right and centre and we have got passengers up in arms.
“There is not enough rolling stock, trains are overcrowded and the fares are going up and up. It’s totally unacceptable for the man in charge to be getting a £30,000 pay rise.”
A spokesman for Network Rail, which pays Mr Verster’s salary, said the increase was due to a promotion earlier this year.
A spokeswoman for the ScotRail Alliance said Scotland’s railway was among the most punctual in the UK, averaging 89.8 per cent of trains arriving on time annually, adding that it was undergoing its “biggest change and improvement” since the Victorian era, with track upgrades, electrification and new trains from 2017.
She said: “We will do everything we can to minimise disruption.”