The National:

GOOD news seems hard to come by at the moment. But the Scottish Government’s decision to bring the Scotrail franchise into public ownership is good news indeed.

Abellio – the company currently managing Scotrail – has become synonymous with chaos. We all remember the astonishing mismanagement of the rail network in 2019, with endless cancellations, delays and overcrowding.

That was just the tip of the iceberg, with Abellio consistently under-delivering for passengers for years, just like its predecessor on the Scottish franchise First did before that.

Private companies have been running riot on our railways for far too long, and passengers have faced the cost, burdened with a shoddy service and fares rising time and time again.

That’s now set to change. After suffering under decades of privatisation, Scotland will from 2022 have the railway it deserves.

READ MORE: ScotRail to be brought into public ownership next year, minister reveals

Under public ownership and proper investment, Scotland could have a world class rail system, with decent infrastructure and passengers at its heart. That’s because when publicly owned, the primary duty is to the passenger, not to shareholders of private companies.

Developing a world class rail service will only become increasingly important as the action we need to take on the climate crisis becomes ever more urgent. We desperately need to take cars off the road and planes out of the sky to reduce our emissions. An efficient, effective rail service linking up all of Scotland is crucial to drive any meaningful attempts to decarbonise the transport sector. That will now be possible, once we’ve seen the back of Abellio and Scotland brings its railway in-house.

We’ve seen how this kind of top-quality public service can be delivered in-house in Scotland already. While England sold off its water system to private-equity under Thatcher, Scottish Water was rightly kept in public hands. The difference is palpable.

South of the border, the private water companies were found to have discharged raw sewage on 200,000 occasions and releasing human waste into rivers for more than 1.5 million hours in 2019. The same year, Southern Water was forced to pay a £126 million penalty after spilling wastewater into the environment and deliberately misrepresenting its performance. In February 2021, Thames Water was fined £2.3 million for a pollution incident that killed 1,200 fish. All the while, the private water companies fail to invest in fixing leaky infrastructure, meaning that 3 billion litres of water are lost down the drain every day.

By contrast, Scottish Water – in public hands – is the most trusted utility in Britain, and has a far stronger record on environmental protection than its privatised English counterparts.

READ MORE: Nationalising ScotRail 'will result in better value for money'

The Scottish Government should now look to replicate Scottish Water’s success on the railway when it is taken into public hands. We’ve seen for years what disaster looks like on the railway. Now it’s time for Scots to get a public transport system they can rely on.

And Scotland’s move towards bringing more of its services into public ownership should be a wake up call for the Westminster government too. Wales is already taking this vital action, taking their railway into public ownership earlier this year too. England - unsurprisingly – is behind the times. It’s time for Westminster to face the reality that privatisation has failed, to follow the lead of Scotland and Wales, and to bring the whole railway into public ownership.

Johnbosco Nwogbo is the campaigns officer for We Own It, an organisation that campaigns for UK public services to be publicly owned