SCOTRAIL is planning cuts to services as passenger demand has continued to slump during the coronavirus crisis, it has emerged.

It comes two months after it emerged that emergency funding from government to help Scotland's rail services cope with the impact of coronavirus is to be extended.

The rail operator could reportedly cut services by as much as 10 per cent next month if the proposals are to go ahead.

They have admitted that services will have to be removed as they witness a"significant reduction in passenger demand across the country, with an average of 80 per cent fewer people travelling than before the COVID-19 pandemic".

They emphasise proposals are "subject to change" and added: "Nothing has been confirmed or finalised."

READ MORE: ScotRail has worst lateness figures in a year despite launch of electric trains

ScotRail stressed that there would be no change to staffing levels or compulsory redundancies.

HeraldScotland:

Moray's Scottish Conservative MP Douglas Ross has been seeking talks with ScotRail to discuss the planned changes fearing effects on his area.

Both the ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper franchises had seen passenger numbers decline sharply after lockdown began in March.

The initial six-month support package had cost an estimated £250m.

Scottish ministers extended this Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA) to January 10, at an expected cost of £100m.

Michael Matheson, cabinet secretary for transport, said the move would ensure rail services continue and provide stability for railway employees.

ScotRail said many services are running with "little or no customers travelling", and the December timetable will be revised to "better reflect the demand across the country".

It said that the operator "continues to provide a critical service, as we have done since the start of the initial lockdown".

"And the December timetable change, while removing some services, will still allow customers to travel safely and observe our five rules for safer travel," it said.

"There are many factors to be taken into account ahead of the timetable change, including the shift away from the traditional peak times, with many people working from home or taking advantage of flexible working hours. The changes being made have not yet been finalised and there will be communication with customers in the coming weeks, well ahead of the implementation on 13 December.

"At a time when businesses throughout the country are working under financial constraints, ScotRail is no different, and revising services in a safe and controlled manner is part of that process."

Despite the easing of lockdown restrictions, ScotRail's passenger numbers remained 70% down year-on-year as of September even though the number of services it operates had returned to near normal levels.

The level of support given by the Scottish government reduces in line with any increase in revenue ScotRail generates.

Under the terms of the EMA, franchise operators Abellio and Serco are both entitled to "management and performance fees" of up to 2% if performance targets are met.

David Simpson, ScotRail operations director, said: "Throughout the pandemic, everyone across Scotland’s Railway has worked tirelessly to deliver a robust and reliable timetable, with services across the country keeping key workers moving.

"We are currently in the process of looking at a revised timetable that allows us to continue delivering that reliable and vital rail service, but better reflects the reduced demand and changing nature of travel in Scotland and the need to ensure value for taxpayer money.

"Our targeted approach will deliver more than enough seats to allow customers to travel safely.”

Mr Matheson said in September that talks over a longer term plan for the franchises will begin shortly.

In announcing the EMA extension he said: "The EMA temporarily varied the franchise agreements in order to minimise disruption to rail passengers and employees during the Covid-19 outbreak.

"Given the extremely challenging budgetary position and the current uncertainty as to consequential from the UK government, the agreements will be in place until January 2021.

"This will ensure rail services continue and also provide stability for employees, passengers and suppliers at a time of unprecedented uncertainty."

Alex White, ScotRail's chief operating officer, said in response: "Extending this essential government support scheme is a major boost for ScotRail staff, who have worked tirelessly to keep people moving during the recent critical months.

"The level of job security provided to ScotRail staff means we can continue to deliver a vital service for those tackling the pandemic and support the economic recovery."

Mr Matheson confirmed in December, last year, that the ScotRail franchise managed by Abellio will end in March 2022 - some three years earlier than planned.