THE Caledonian Sleeper service will be brought into public hands this summer, the Scottish Government has announced.

Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth said the service, which connects some of Scotland’s most rural stations to London, will be operated by an arms-length company owned by the Scottish Government from June 25.

Speaking to MSPs on Thursday, Gilruth said the decision to remove the contract from Serco should not be seen as commentary on the firm’s operation of the service.

“The decision will provide a stable platform for the provision of sleeper services and it will also provide certainty for staff and, of course, the travelling public,” she said.

“I would like to make it very clear that the Caledonian Sleeper staff will transfer to the Scottish Government-owned entity with their terms and conditions protected.”

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But Gilruth intimated that the decision to bring the service into public hands would not be permanent, saying she and officials would monitor “market conditions”.

Back in December, there were calls for the Scottish Government to permanently take the service into public ownership.

Serco – which had run the service since 2014 – lost the contract in October after the private firm asked for its terms to be “rebased”.

Ministers were left with the options of either putting the contact out to tender, awarding it back to Serco or handing it over to a company owned and controlled by the Scottish Government.

Labour MSP Richard Leonard was one of the politicians who called for the service to be taken into public ownership at the time.

He said: "This is a victory for workers, their trade unions and passengers. 

"It should have happened years ago, the contract should never have been handed to Serco, and it should be made permanent. 

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"Now the Scottish Government must treat the workers with the respect they deserve by protecting their jobs, paying them a decent wage and immediately establishing full and meaningful bargaining arrangements with the unions." 

Last year, Gilruth had said that the contractor had “broadly delivered well and significantly improved the Caledonian Sleeper services over the last seven years”.

However, in 2021, the service was subject to strike action over allegations of harassment and bullying of staff.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said that the service should join ScotRail as part of one publicly owned company.

The Greens described it as a "big step" towards a "fully integrated, affordable and publicly owned rail service".

The party's transport spokesman, Mark Ruskell, said: “Alongside the rail unions, we’ve been clear from the start that a publicly owned sleeper service has to be central to a people's ScotRail. 

“It can help us on our climate journey by delivering a much-needed shift from plane to rail and boosting better connectivity with our friends in Europe

“With tickets often costing in the hundreds of pounds, there is a lot of work to do to ensure that the sleeper service is an affordable one. 

“Nationalising the service is absolutely the right choice."

Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) deputy general secretary Dave Moxham added: “This is a welcome move from the Transport Minister and we’re pleased the Scottish Government has acted in the public interest.

"Our movement has long called for this service to be a public asset, not a private commodity.

“We need to ensure that real, sustained funding is allocated to the Sleeper in addition to our entire public transport network. We must take workers with us on our journey to create a greener, more affordable rail service.

"This cannot be done on the cheap and we will work with the Scottish Government to continue our journey to net zero, creating a fairer, more sustainable transport system that works for the public, not the profiteers."