Smart ticketing and improved Wi-Fi access are two of the commitments set out by the Scottish government to bidders looking to take over operation of ScotRail services from 2015.
Publishing its draft Invitation To Tender (ITT), Transport Scotland told prospective franchise holders that they would have to cap ticket prices, continue to reduce journey times and develop scenic rail services to boost tourism across the region.
Shortlisted operators – Abellio, Arriva, FirstGroup, MTR and National Express – have until next spring to submit a bid for the 10-year franchise, with the winner expected to be announced in the autumn.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “Unlike previous DfT-led procurements which have focused on price, the ScotRail franchise competition includes a heavy emphasis on quality.
“Thirty-five per cent of the evaluation marks are available for improvements to current services reflecting the rail priorities which the people of Scotland have told us are important.
“Bidders for this franchise must commit to ambitious improvements if they want to win.
“We will continue to mandate our fares policy of providing an affordable travel choice. Peak fares will not rise more than inflation and off-peak fares will fall in real terms (RPI minus 1 per cent).”
The Scottish Association for Public Transport (SAPT) chairman Dr John McCormick said: “The short-listed bidders have extensive experience of running “metro style” operations worldwide and we expect that this will bring new ideas for integrated transport in Scottish cities.”
The new operator will also be required to pay sign up to a Living Wage charter and set up apprenticeship schemes in both customer service and engineering disciplines.