Given the current levels of motorway congestion in and around the Central Belt – and, more crucially, the Scottish Government's ambitious aim of achieving net zero emissions of all greenhouses gases by 2045 – the idea of a Winchburgh train station, discussed in a new report this week, sounds tempting.

The proposed station for Winchburgh, a rapidly-growing West Lothian community 10 miles from Edinburgh, could, according to the independent report it commissioned, remove nearly half a million cars from some of Scotland's busiest rush-hour corridors, as well as – potentially – meaning an easier commute for workers bound for Edinburgh or Glasgow.

The plan makes sense in the context of the need for Scotland to improve its public transport. The railways' contribution cannot be underestimated. Electrification has been a marked success in such areas as the Central Belt, and the project continues apace. The Borders line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank – the longest new domestic railway built in Scotland for more than a century – has also been successful. New stations at locations such as Portlethen, in the north east, had a positive effect on passenger numbers.

A key milestone was reached last week in Fife's £116m Levenmouth rail link, funded by the Scottish Government, which includes two new stations and 19 kilometres of track, connecting Leven to Thornton junction on the east coast mainline. The project is scheduled for completion next year, and is to be welcomed.

Transport Scotland has been quoted as saying that the delivery and funding of any new station at Winchburgh would be up to the developer.

The latter's supporters, however, believe that this is something of a grey area given that new stations have been opened elsewhere with public funding. But if the scheme could indeed take half-a-million cars out of the rush-hour equation and benefit the net-zero calculations, it might be worth serious consideration. Sue Webber, a Conservative Lothian Region MSP, has argued that a new station would reduce congestion and encourage sustainable travel.

Some strides have been made in improving public transport but more, much more, remains to be done.

As we have seen in London, the extension of the ULEZ scheme into the capital's outer boroughs has been profoundly controversial, in part because of poor public transport services.

In the Scottish context, need we mention the running sore that the ferries have become? New figures show that the state-owned ferry operator, Calmac, cancelled 40,000 sailings between September 2018 and April 2023. Non-weather related cancellations jumped from 1,371 in 2017-18 to a peak of 5,805 in 2021-22, before dropping last year. Each cancellation causes inconvenience and chaos. Islanders and tourists are paying the price for the SNP government being slow to modernise the ferry fleet.

The recent announcement by First Bus that it was axing its night-bus services in Glasgow had an adverse impact on the night-time economy, residents and visitors. An outcry prompted the company to continue operating four of the late buses while a rival operator, McGill’s, will take on five. The latter company was correct to point out that buses were vital to the success of the city.

Opposition parties are not short of ideas about how to improve public transport. Scottish Labour says that if it returns to power it will put bus services back into public hands and will run them as a service that all can benefit from.

The Scottish Conservatives have pledged to reverse the Beeching railway closures of the 1960s and reopen rail lines and stations that would support local growth. The electrification project would be stepped up, and the Borders railway extended to Carlisle.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have highlighted research showing that just 44% of people living in remote rural areas describe their public transport as satisfactory, compared with 78% of those living in "large urban areas". As Jamie Stone, the party’s MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, points out, if Scotland is ever to meet its climate change commitments it needs more electric bus services, rail services that meet local needs, and a ferry procurement programme that is alert to the pain caused by cancellations of sailings.

The Scottish LibDems have also proposed new rail lines in areas with poor public-transport links, cutting rail fares, offering two- or three-day rail season tickets, a Scotland-wide smart card system for all forms of transport and, interestingly, powerful regional transport partnerships to run bus services, as based on the London model.

Not all of these ideas will see the light of day but they offer considerable food for thought. As mentioned, improvements have been made to Scotland’s public transport network, but if we are serious about having fewer cars on the roads, and particularly in cities, we need to make much more of a priority of public transport.