SCOTRAIL has admitted there will be no immediate end to disruption on the railways in the wake of the new timetable chaos as it increased compensation rates for its poor performance.

It comes as unions demanded that the transport secretary Michael Matheson resigns over the handling of the new timetable chaos, while the Scottish Government insist Dutch transport company Abellio, which runs the ScotRail service, would have to be in default of their contract in three consecutive months to remove the franchise from them.

HeraldScotland:

Last month the Scottish Government told the railway operator to submit a plan to address falling performance levels which if unsuccessful would result in one default.

On Monday while the number of service cancellations were cut, a combination of train faults and crew shortages meant that ScotRail had to cut the number of carriages on over 90 services across Scotland - the main reason for passenger overcrowding - and one of the highest levels since the timetable was brought in on December 9.

It has led a host of further complaints to ScotRail, even though the train operator said things were improving while offering offering season ticket holders most affected by cancellations extra compensation by way of free trips on selected routes that have been most impacted.

Most of the disruption that has hit Scots railways since the timetable launch in December 9 was due to ScotRail staff shortages, and the train operator says that is partly because many have been undergoing training on the new trains too late to be ready for the timetable launch.

ScotRail said that was partly caused by the late arrival of the new Hitachi Class 385 and high-speed InterCity trains.

The train operator says the lag in staff training was made worse as a result of RMT industrial action over a pay dispute that lasted several weeks, and was resolved over four weeks ago.

ScotRail say that they have "made progress" since the launch of the timetable having trained 70 drivers and conductors but added: "We know we need to do more."

But it has emerged that it still has to train up more than 20 drivers and conductors every day throughout January and February to return service to "levels [passengers] deserve". It says the number of service cancellations had reduced "steadily" over the last few weeks.

The 10-year franchise deal with Abellio for the ScotRail franchise awarded in 2015 allows the contract to be terminated early in 2020, if there was a performance default in three consecutive months.

ScotRail said: "We will continue to cut cancellations to improve your service. We expect week on week improvement through January and February to get your service back to normal levels."

HeraldScotland:

The transport staff union TSSA organised a protest outside Glasgow Central Station supported by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard calling for Abellio to be stripped of the ScotRail contract after a rise in rail fares following months of delays and cancellations to trains.

Liz Warren-Corney of the TSSA said Mr Matheson would have to leave his post for the franchise to be stripped from Abellio as she believes he is "ideologically in favour of privatisation" unlike her view of his predecessor Humza Yousaf.

Questioned if Mr Matheson would have to go to achieve change, she said: "Yes. I don't think that would be a bad thing.

"The job of Transport Secretary is to stand up for passengers and when it comes to ScotRail, he has done anything but."

HeraldScotland:

Mr Leonard urged the Scottish Government to use the break clause in the ScotRail franchise to take the railway into public ownership.

The contract could simply be allowed to expire in 2022 rather than be extended to 2025.

"We've seen in the last week fares going up so many of the commuters coming into Glasgow this morning are paying extra for a service which is worse and we think there is huge support for a return of ScotRail into public ownership," he said.

"It would mean that every single penny that passengers pay would be reinvested in the railway instead of the current situation where part of that goes back to pay shareholder dividends in Holland."

In November, the Herald revealed that publicly owned Network Rail Scotland is being probed by the transport regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) as it emerged that it was responsible for two in three of the delays which saw ScotRail forced to settle 35,000 successful claims from passengers in the previous nine months.

Official figures reveal that ScotRail were had to pay out up to 15,683 'delay repay' claims a month over the nine-month period between January and September last year, before the timetable disruption.

The taxpayer will be expected to bare the brunt of those claims estimated by industry figures to come to at least £1m as Network Rail, the nationalised body that manages the infrastructure such as the tracks and the signals, would be expected to compensate ScotRail for problems they were responsible for.

ORR data shows that over the year to October 13, 61% of 'delay minutes' affecting ScotRail were blamed on Network Rail, while a further nine per cent were caused by another operator, while one in three delays were laid at the door of ScotRail.

The figures also revealed nearly half of delays to the Scotland to London Caledonian Sleeper were blamed on Network Rail.

Alex Rowley, the former deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party produced his own video about his concerns.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Rail remains a reserved matter under the Scotland Act. Until this changes, we cannot consider the full range of options for running the railways in Scotland in a way which best suits our passengers, freight providers and communities. That is why we are yet again calling on the UK Government, through its rail review, to devolve all rail matters to the Scottish Ministers. Anyone with a genuine interest in improving our railways should get behind this."

The spokesman added: "ScotRail would have to be in default of the contract to enable us to remove the franchise from them. The notion we can simply rip up the contract and put a public sector operator in place is misleading at best.

"Procuring a new contract at this time would come at a significant cost to the public purse and still require a fair and open competition to be run for a new franchisee.

An Abellio spokesman said: "Abellio's focus is on delivering the existing franchise to the highest possible standards, working hard to put in place a railway that better connects passengers, businesses, and communities across Scotland."

*SCOTRAIL are offering season ticket holders most affected by service cancellations extra compensation by way of free trips on selected routes.

Season ticket holders, accompanied by one extra person on certain routes are being offered travel anywhere on ScotRail services for six specified weekends in March, April and May 2019.

Those delayed by more than 30 minutes, are already entitled to compensation through a Delay Repay Guarantee.

Those delayed by 30 to 59 minutes get 50% of the cost of a single ticket or 25% of a return. It the delay is for an hour to an hour and 59 minutes the compensation is the full cost of a single or half the cost of a return and if it is two hours or more customers get a full refund.

The offer weekends are March 23 and 24, March 30 and 31, April 6 and 7, April 13 and 14, April 27 and 28 and May 11 and 12.

The qualifying routes which covers both directions and all intermediate stations are: Edinburgh - Aberdeen

Edinburgh - Dunblane

Glasgow Queen St – Edinburgh via Cumbernauld

Glasgow Queen St - Aberdeen - Dyce

Glasgow Queen St/Edinburgh - Arbroath

Fife Circle

Glasgow/Edinburgh - Perth/Inverness

Haymarket - North Berwick

Edinburgh - Newcraighall – Tweedbank (Borders)

Aberdeen – Inverness

Montrose - Aberdeen

Inverness - Kyle of Lochalsh