RAIL bosses have admitted they don’t expect passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels as reducing services amid the current lockdown are “under active consideration”.

Managing director of Scotland’s Railway, Alex Hynes, said the current set-up does not offer value for money as the Scottish Government urges people to stay at home.

Mr Hynes told Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee that passenger footfall had plummeted to 10 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, with ScotRail currently running 80 per cent of its services from before the first lockdown.

But he told MSPs that the company is “actively considering further reductions” to services as “demand has fallen back to 10 per cent of normal” following the new ‘stay at home’ lockdown being rolled out across mainland Scotland.

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He added: “That is something that we’re literally working on at the moment.

“It’s an opportunity to operate shorter trains and still provide space for physical distancing and an opportunity to operate fewer train services.

“At the moment, we’re operating about 80 per cent of train services for about 10 per cent of the demand, which is not good value for money for the taxpayer, so further train service reductions are under consideration.”

Mr Hynes said that rail bosses are “looking at operating shorter trains where possible” and stressed that timetable changes are “under active consideration”.

But he did not say when an announcement on changes to schedules would be announced.

He also told MSPs that during the first lockdown, “revenue collapsed by 95 per cent”.

HeraldScotland: Alex Hynes has issues warnings about the cost-effectiveness of trains amid the pandemicAlex Hynes has issues warnings about the cost-effectiveness of trains amid the pandemic

Mr Hynes stressed that “all parts of the rail industry will need to work much harder to deliver a much more cost-effective railway” once restrictions are lifted.

He added: “We are ready to play our part in the economic recovery and make the case for continued investment in Scotland’s railways.”

Mr Hynes said that “if revenue falls, the taxpayer injects more money into rail services to keep these services going” before giving a stark warning that “hundreds of millions of pounds has had to be made available” from public funding.

He also warned that the industry may struggle to recover once restrictions are lifted – amid expected changes to working patterns and people continuing to log on from home.

He said: “Nobody knows how passenger demand will recover, rebound, emerge post-pandemic.

“Roughly one third of our traffic is commuters. Will we go back to pre-pandemic levels of commuting? I don’t think so.

"There is some evidence that suggests that commuting for office workers essentially will become a discretionary activity and we need to think about how we change out business accordingly."