THERE are calls for the Scottish Government to permanently take the Caledonian Sleeper service into public ownership.

In October the Transport Secretary Jenny Gilruth announced that Serco had lost the contract after the private firm asked for its terms to be “rebased”.

The Scottish Government then had three options available regarding the future ownership of the franchise. They could put the contact out to tender, award it back to Serco, or hand it over to company owned and controlled by the Scottish Government.

This last option would have meant that the service would effectively be publicly owned.

However while answering a question in the Scottish Parliament on the financial impact of the options available, Gilruth announced that she was looking at an “appropriate assessment of a direct award to Serco Caledonian Sleepers Ltd.”

Labour MSP Richard Leonard said Serco have proven that they are “unfit” to run Scotland’s railways and called for the service to be taken into public ownership.

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He said: “To even contemplate handing this historic service back to Serco, which has proved time and again it is not fit to run our railways, is a betrayal of passengers and staff.

"The SNP and Greens must not bow to corporate pressure again, the Caledonian Sleeper must be brought into public ownership to be run by and for the people.”

Serco has run the service since 2014.

Earlier this year Gilruth 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.

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He added: “The Scottish Government is already running the ScotRail franchise in public ownership and it would provide better value for money for taxpayers and passengers if it were to reintegrate the Caledonian Sleeper with ScotRail.

“Therefore, it seems absurd that the Scottish Government has admitted it is considering making a further direct award to Serco, which will allow the private company to continue profiting from public funds.

“The Serco Caledonian Sleeper franchise has been beset with problems throughout the duration of the franchise, and the Scottish Government must now abandon any plans to hand it a further contract and instead commit to running Scotland’s rail passenger services in one publicly owned company.”

Transport Scotland has been contacted for comment.