FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has hailed the “historic and momentous occasion” as ScotRail comes into public sector control.

Sturgeon spoke at Glasgow’s Queen Street station on Friday to mark the important moment, praising everyone involved in the transition from Dutch firm Abellio to nationalisation.

Why is ScotRail going into public ownership?

Abellio has been running ScotRail since 2015 but it has faced criticism over performance levels.

Its contract is being brought to an end three years early, having been due to last until 2025.

The National:

Timetables will remain the same as planned and train livery is not changing, though the word Abellio will be removed from signs and printed materials.

A publicly owned company called ScotRail Trains Limited will operate train services, overseen by a public body called Scottish Rail Holdings.

What did Nicola Sturgeon say?

During her visit to Queen Street, the First Minister commented: “This historic and momentous occasion marks the delivery of a key milestone in our ambitious Programme for Government to support a greener, fairer, more prosperous Scotland.

The National:

“Everyone involved has worked extremely hard to deliver the smooth transition of ScotRail into public control and ownership. This new beginning creates a real opportunity to deliver a railway which is for the nation, and fully focused on being run for the benefit of its users – customers, staff and stakeholders, as opposed to shareholders.”

She went on to praise the role of rail travel in meeting climate change targets and reducing carbon emissions – describing ScotRail as a “central plank” in Scotland’s decarbonisation plan.

Sturgeon added: “Together with the delivery of our free bus travel for under-22s, we are making public transport a more attractive option, especially for Scotland’s younger generations.”

What is ScotRail saying?

Meanwhile ScotRail managing director Alex Hynes hailed the “important day”, and welcomed the “exciting new chapter”.

“Our staff have done a fantastic job to keep people moving, and to keep delivering a vital service for the country’s economy, and I am looking forward to continuing to deliver the high quality of service that our customers expect and deserve,” he said.

To mark the occasion, up to four children will be able to travel for free on ScotRail trains with every adult this weekend.

What are unions saying?

Meanwhile in Glasgow on Friday, the RMT will be holding a rally outside Queen Street station. Ahead of the protest Mick Hogg, the union’s Scotland director, welcomed the renationalisation of the network.

“No longer will there be private shareholders receiving dividends or any profits from Scotland’s railway, so in that sense we believe there a great opportunity for Scotland’s railway to receive the proper investment that it deserves,” he told Good Morning Scotland.

READ MORE: Is the ScotRail nationalisation a chance for a train revolution?

Hogg said the transport minister was “ticking all the right boxes as far as the RMT is concerned and she does not want an industrial strife”.

But, he added, he didn’t see it as “unreasonable” for his members, who he said deserved medals for their work through the pandemic, “to receive a fair pay increase”.

“Our members are telling me loud and clear that we deserve and want a decent pay increase,” he told the broadcaster.