INVESTMENT in Scotland ’s railways is due to increase by almost £600 million over the next five years, the SNP Government has announced, but passenger delays will remain a stubborn problem.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said day-to-day funding for infrastructure on the Scottish network would rise by 21 per cent by 2024.

Spending on operations, maintenance, support and renewals will rise from £2.74bn to £3.31bn over the next funding round, compared to the previous one.

The money will help complete a series of ongoing track and station improvements, including on the key Edinburgh-Glasgow route, the electrification of services in Stirlingshire and Lanarkshire, and improvements on the Highland Main Line and the Aberdeen to Inverness line.

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There are also plans for new stations at Robroyston, Kintore, Reston, East Linton and Dalcross, which would serve Inverness airport.

In addition, ministers have published a shopping list of potential projects which will be regularly assessed for value for money, and only taken forward if money allows.

These include improvements to East Kilbride and Barrhead services to let more passengers use the route, improvements between Glasgow and Perth, and more freight capacity.

READ MORE: Scots rail chiefs face new pay cut penalties in new move to stop trains chaos

Other possible measures include works to improve rail services for communities along the Far North Line from Inverness to Thurso and Wick, supporting the local economy and tourism, and improvements to rail services on the Argyle Lines, with a focus on improving the passenger experience and train service reliability.

There are also plans to reduce emissions through electrification, as well as exploring new technologies such as battery and hydrogen trains.

In a pre-recorded speech shown to rail experts at the Rail North of Border Conference in Glasgow, Mr Matheson called again for complete devolution of the Scottish railway system.

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At the moment, the running of the service is devolved, but the infrastructure remains under the control of UK-wide Network Rail.

He said: “Rail provides vital connections between our cities, our communities, our businesses, and showcases all that Scotland has to offer. That is why we have invested an unprecedented £8bn in this key part of the economy across Scotland since 2007.

“Scotland saw the highest regional growth with passengers making 102m journeys in 2017/2018.

“ Despite the financial pressures imposed by the UK Government, we have confidence in the future of rail.

“Through our new projects pipeline we will address the cost and delivery challenges witnessed in recent years.

“It will also give confidence to the rail supply chain, in that it assures a steady stream of work for the next five years.

“My biggest frustration, however, has been operating with one hand tied behind my back.

“Franchising, in its current form, doesn’t work and we must use the opportunity provided by Keith William’s review of the industry as a means of delivering real and meaningful structural change in Scotland. Nothing short of full devolution of rail powers is needed.”

Later at Holyrood, opposition MSPs complained about the slow pace of improvements to ScotRail’s customer performance, which is at a 16-year low, as Mr Matheson confirmed 55 new drivers being hired this year to fill staff shortages would not be fully trained and ready to work until May 2020.

The TSSA rail union, welcomed the new funding, but warned passengers to expect more delays with Dutch-owned Abellio due to stay in charge of the ScotRail franchise until 2025.

General Secretary, Manuel Cortes said: “TThis will come as good news for Scottish commuters who have been hardest hit in ScotRail’s year of record-breaking bad service.

“However, the simplest way to end delays on ScotRail is to get rid of Abellio and bring our railway into public ownership.

“Otherwise the delays will continue. Whilst Abellio continue to sacrifice customer service and sensible staffing levels in pursuit of profit Scottish passengers will go on suffering. Bringing ScotRail into public ownership will not only greatly improve performance but end the intolerable practice of Scottish taxpayers money leaking out of the railway network in the form of profits for the Dutch government.”

ScotRail managing director Alex Hynes is due to be quizzed by MSPs on ScotRail’s poor performance at Holyrood today, after being forced to publish the first of two binding remedial plans last week to address cancellations and customer dissatisfaction.

Failure to deliver on promised improvements could see Abellio-ScotRail stripped of its franchise early.