SNP Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has been accused of a “total abdication of responsibility” after refusing to intervene in the ‘Kids Go Free’ row at ScotRail

The rail operator is under fire for planning to scrap the popular scheme next month, with 5 to 15 year olds charged a £1 instead of travelling free on trains.

Scottish Labour yesterday launched a public petition urging ScotRail to reverse its decision.

At Holyrood, Labour transport spokesman Colin Smyth asked Mr Matheson to condemn ScotRail’s “short-sighted move”, saying it would make public transport less accessible and risked pricing families off trains, then asked whether he would sign the petition.

However the Transport Secretary said Kids Go Free was a “commercial product” of ScotRail, adding: “It’ll give it a miss when it comes to signing the petition.”.

He said: “I do understand the concerns members of the public have and the Member expressed about the Kids Go Free promotion being removed.

“That’s a commercial product that’s in the hands of ScotRail to choose to implement or not to do, they’ve chosen to change that.”

Mr Matheson said he would express his unhappiness with other aspects of ScotRail’s recent performance in a meeting with boss Alex Hynes later that day.

Mr Matheson said recent cancellations caused by a rest day dispute were “unacceptable” and urged the RMT union and ScotRail to resolve it.

He said: “I recognise passengers’ frustrations over the difficulties in recent days in particular. “The ScotRail Alliance is in no doubt about my views on its performance to date; when I meet the ScotRail Alliance’s MD this afternoon, he will be in no doubt about my views on its performance in the past couple of days in particular.”

Mr Smith said later: “This is a total abdication of responsibility from the Transport Secretary.

“We’re now at the point where the franchise is scrapping free travel for kids to make money, and all the SNP ministers can or will do is shrug their shoulders.”

A ScotRail spokesman said: “We are committed to providing our customers with the opportunity to travel across our services and the Kids for a Quid offer is available on a wider range of adult tickets.

“This provides families with the opportunity to travel throughout the country, and take advantage of free entry to the many attractions that we have been able to secure.”