The new operator of the ScotRail franchise has said it is the start of a “new chapter” in the history of the country’s railways as it celebrated its launch.
Dutch rail operator Abellio begins its ten-year ScotRail contract today having taken over from former franchisee FirstGroup.
It is marking its launch by giving away £1 million worth of tickets as a thank you to loyal customers and to attract new ones.
Abellio’s plans for the future include brand new trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow offering faster journey times and more capacity and a fully refurbished, high quality intercity fleet serving Scotland’s cities.
The launch event took place at Stirling station today.
Jeff Hoogesteger, chief executive officer of Abellio Group, said: “Abellio is proud to be serving Scotland and it is a privilege to be launching the new ScotRail from Stirling, at the heart of this magnificent country.
“Today begins a new chapter in the long story of Scotland’s railways. As the new stewards of a vital part of Scotland’s society and economy, we understand the responsibility given to us and will work every day to earn the faith that has been shown in us.
“On October 8 2014 I stood with the then transport minister Keith Brown at Waverley station to welcome the award of ScotRail to Abellio.
“The ball is now very firmly in Abellio’s court and we have no higher priority than to bring our vision for ScotRail to life.”
The company is also planning free travel for jobseekers attending up to two interviews a month and one month’s free travel when they start work, and a Scottish nationwide smartcard to serve an integrated transport network and make travel easier.
It is also looking forward to the launch of the Borders railway, described as the longest new domestic railway in the UK for more than 100 years.
Abellio UK managing director Dominic Booth said: “The ScotRail team are handing over a franchise in very good shape and we are grateful.
“However, we are determined that ScotRail will now go beyond A-to-B and play a truly strategic role in the long-term success of the country.
“We will do so by providing jobs and support for small businesses in towns and cities across the country; by supporting and boosting Scotland’s leisure and tourism industries.
“By working with local schools and supporting community programmes. And by connecting businesses and people through improved journey times and increased capacity on Scotland’s rail network“
Transport minister Derek Mackay attended the launch today.
He said: “The ScotRail franchise is the single biggest contract let by the Scottish Government, so it was important to us that the new operator could deliver not only a reliable and successful rail service for the country, but also that it would be an enabler for growth in our economy.
“Abellio has promised to contribute to Scottish public life in many ways beyond the railway, from community and third sector engagement to moving their UK headquarters from London to Glasgow.
“I look forward to seeing Abellio ScotRail become the beating heart of this exciting time for the railways in Scotland.”