TRADE unions have today blasted Scotland’s private rail companies for “Covid profiteering” and pocketing public money in a time of crisis.

New research has shown that the private train companies in Scotland, both public and commercial, are set to take home around £28 million in profit under Covid-19 Emergency Measures Agreements (EMAs).

Since March 2020, due to the massive fall in passenger numbers and revenue as result of Covid-19, both Abellio Scotrail and Serco Caledonian Sleeper have been operating via EMAs, under which the Scottish Government takes on all revenue risk and covers the costs of the franchise.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that the terms of the EMAs include the payment of a management fee, and that it is covering the costs of lease payments to Rolling Stock Companies who supply trains to Scotrail and the Caledonian Sleeper.

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Those two companies will reportedly share nearly £13m in profits, whilst Rolling Stock Companies may have made more than £15m profit. This is equivalent to a 7.4% cut in ticket prices and can be said to have come directly from the public purse.

The figures have been revealed at the same time as Abellio Scotrail is denying dedicated rail workers a pay rise, and the Serco Caledonian Sleeper is facing possible strike action after refusing to act on staff fatigue.

The Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) trade union and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) say the figures show that rail is a public service, and have renewed calls for the Scottish Government to look at following Wales and nationalising the industry.

The Scottish Government has not yet announced what will happen when the current EMAs expire in January 2021.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “We welcome the vital funding that has been forthcoming from the Scottish Government to keep Scotland’s railways going during Covid-19 but unbelievably part of this deal has meant that while passengers and rail workers have made huge sacrifices its business as usual for Scotland’s privatised rail companies who stand to make millions in profits.

“Instead the right course of action would be public ownership where every penny of emergency government funding should be invested in the railway.

“Our calculations show that public ownership could mean a fairer deal for passengers who could benefit from up to a 7.4 % fare cut.

“Ending the profiteering could also mean a fairer deal for rail workers who are currently being denied a pay rise despite their heroic efforts during Covid-19.

“As the Welsh Government has shown, it is well within the Scottish Government’s powers to take its rail services into public ownership.

“There can be no more excuses, in January 2021, when these agreements expire the Scottish Government must take Scotland’s passenger railway into public ownership.”

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Manuel Cortes, the TSSA general secretary, added: “Right now Abellio and Serco should be issuing Scottish tax-payers and rail customers an apology and a refund.

“This is shameless Covid profiteering, handing public money to their shareholders at a time of national crisis.

“Keeping the trains running during the pandemic is absolutely essential and it was right for the Scottish government to issue the Emergency Measures Agreements. Yet unbelievably, whilst frontline rail workers have put their lives on the line keeping the trains running, the fat cats at the top have been raking in the profits.

“This pandemic has shown that railways are an essential public service and should be run in the public sector.

“The Labour government in Wales has shown that it’s possible for a devolved Government to take rail services in public ownership. Now it’s time for Scotland to follow their lead."

A spokesperson for Scotrail denied the accusations of profiteering. They said: "These numbers have absolutely no basis in reality and shouldn’t be taken seriously. We will publish our accounts in line with statutory requirements."