Committee convener requests Auditor General probe into rail franchise passenger figures

24.06.2009

The convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee today requested that the Auditor General for Scotland, Robert Black, looks into figures that were used as the basis for predicting the number of passenger trips in the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) area.

The call follows the publication of an SPT report revealing that First ScotRail overestimated annual passenger figures for 2008/09 by 7.26 million.

Committee convener Hugh Henry MSP has asked the Auditor General to consider urgently whether similar errors were made in previous years. He has also asked whether any such errors would have made a material difference to the Scottish Government’s decision to extend the First ScotRail passenger rail franchise in April 2008.

During its recent inquiry into the First ScotRail rail passenger franchise, the committee heard that, in 2006, Transport Scotland (the government agency with responsibility for the franchise) became concerned that aspects of the franchise were no longer fit for purpose because profits were projected to reach a level at which revenue share arrangements could discourage further service growth and improvements.

Committee convener Hugh Henry said: “The committee was given incorrect information during the course of its inquiry which had to be corrected and we expressed our concerns at the time. Now it transpires that inaccurate figures have been used as the basis for calculating projected passenger numbers in the SPT area and this raises a question about whether this is the case across Scotland.

"Given that we were told that the success of the operation was a key justification for renewing the contract, an error of this magnitude, with passenger numbers significantly overstated, gives me cause for concern.”

Background
During the course of its deliberations on the renewal of the First ScotRail franchise, incorrect information was given to the Public Audit Committee and had to be corrected by the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Stewart Stevenson MSP and the former chief executive of Transport Scotland.

Further information
The Public Audit Committee published a report on the First ScotRail passenger rail franchise on 11 June 2009.

The Strathclyde Partnership for Transport report is titled Monitoring report on public transport services in the SPT area (11 June 2009)  and will be discussed at a meeting of the SPT Operations Committee on 26 June 2009.