COMMUTERS may never have heard of it but from Wednesday Dutch rail operator Abellio will be responsible for running Scotland's trains.


The ScotRail franchise covers 2300 trains each weekday, more than 86.3million passenger journeys and 1.6billion passenger miles a year.

FirstGroup has been running the rail network for the past decade but last year, lost the £2.5billion contract to an offshoot of Dutch national railways.

It was a massive blow for a company which owes much of its success to a former apprentice mechanic.

Moir Lockhead left school at 15 to work in a bus garage in Darlington.

He went on to become director of public transportation at Grampian Regional Council in Aberdeen and in 1989, led a management buyout of the council's bus fleet.

Under the guidance of Sir Moir Lockhead as he is now known, the new company went on to purchase former nationalised bus companies in Scotland, England and Wales and in 1995, FirstBus was born.

The firm's expansion policy continued and the following year it acquired Strathclyde Buses in Glasgow and over the following two years, two bus companies in London.

In 1997, the company was renamed FirstGroup after it turned its sights on railways with the privatisation of British Rail.

It bought up two operations in England and inevitably, started looking further afield for acquisitions.

In 1998 it began operating bus services in Hong Kong and went on to buy the company which provided the yellow school buses which operate across America.

That gave it a controlling stake in Greyhound Lines, the largest bus operator in North America.

In June 2004, FirstGroup turned its focus back to Scotland when it won the franchise to provide services operated by ScotRail.

Two years later, Transport Scotland granted First ScotRail a three year extension until November 2014 and the franchise was extended again until March 2015.

During that time the transport giant ran services from Glasgow to Edinburgh as well as towns and cities the length and breadth of Scotland.

The densest part of the network is around Glasgow where there are 183 stations making it the second largest suburban rail network in the UK after London.

Despite its success, the Aberdeen based company announced in October last year that Transport Scotland had decided it had lost out in a battle with four rivals desperate to secure the new rail franchise.

As a result, it will transfer operations and almost 5000 employees to Abellio on April 1.

FirstGroup chief executive Tim O'Toole said: "We are immensely proud to have operated Scotland's railways for the past 11 years and to have delivered unmatched levels of service and quality.

"Since 2004, First ScotRail has invested more than £82 million in Scotland's railways, delivering increased frequencies, upgrades to trains and stations and increasing the number of passengers by 34%.

"We will be handing over Scotland's railways in a very strong position. Passenger numbers are at an all-time high, with more than 86m passenger journeys being made in the last year and satisfaction is at record levels of over 90% in the latest National Rail Passenger Survey - eight points higher than the national UK average and six points higher than when we took over the franchise.

"Punctuality has also risen from 84% in 2004 to a record high of 95% today. Our achievements have been recognised by the industry as we have been awarded the title of Rail Operator of the Year three times in the last six years.

"Above all, I am most proud of the team, led by Steve Montgomery and all of our employees at First ScotRail, for achieving these goals.

"I would like to thank them for their commitment and dedication in delivering the highest standards of service for passengers.

"We are working hard with the new franchisees to ensure a smooth transition for everyone as they prepare to take on the responsibility of running Scotland's railways. We wish employees, partners and passengers of the new franchise every success for the future."