ScotRail’s passengers and 5,200 staff received a significant boost today as emergency funding by the Scottish Government was extended.
The lifeline Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA) was introduced in April 2020 after the COVID-19 lockdown resulted in a 95 per cent reduction in ScotRail passenger numbers. The Scottish Government reached a six-month funding agreement to allow the operator to continue to provide services for key workers tackling the pandemic.
Unlike many transport operators across the world, ScotRail has not placed a single member of its 5,200 staff on furlough or cut any permanent roles as a result of the pandemic. There have been no changes to the wages or terms and conditions of staff.
The original six-month EMA was due to expire on Sunday, 20 September 2020, but this has been extended until 10 January 2021. The extension was necessary as ScotRail’s passenger numbers remain 70 per cent down year-on-year due to the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, including the instruction for people to work from home where possible.
Discussions on a longer-term agreement beyond 10 January 2021 are due to begin imminently.
The agreement provides value for money for the Scottish taxpayer, as the level of support given by the government reduces in line with any increase in revenue ScotRail generates. While passenger numbers remain 70 per cent down, the number of services operated by ScotRail has returned to close to pre-pandemic levels.
Alex White, ScotRail Chief Operating Officer, said:
“Extending this essential government support scheme is a major boost for ScotRail staff, who have worked tirelessly to keep people moving during the recent critical months. The level of job security provided to ScotRail staff means we can continue to deliver a vital service for those tackling the pandemic and support the economic recovery.
“We’ll continue to work closely with the Scottish Government to secure a longer-term agreement that provides further job security for our staff, value for money for the taxpayer, and a safe and reliable service for our customers.”
Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure, and Connectivity, said:
“Following extensive discussions with Abellio ScotRail and Serco Caledonian Sleeper we have put in place these further Emergency Measures Agreements to cover operating costs because of severely reduced revenues.
“Given the extremely challenging budgetary position and the current uncertainty as to consequentials from the UK Government, the agreements will be in place until January 2021. This will ensure rail services continue and provide stability for employees, passengers and suppliers at a time of unprecedented uncertainty.
“We will commence discussions immediately with both operators to seek to agree a longer-term plan for our contractual arrangements after January 2021.”