ALMOST £1 billion of emergency support is set to have been pumped into ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper services by March next year.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said a further Emergency Measures Agreement (EMA) is being drawn up to protect staff and rail services. 

Emergency funding was introduced in April 2020 after the coronavirus lockdown resulted in passenger numbers plummeting. 

It was initially put in place for six months but was later extended as restrictions continued. 

Giving evidence to Holyrood's Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, Mr Matheson said plans are being put in place to extend emergency funding until March 2022.

He said: "We are taking forward work to put in place a further EMA for both the Caledonian Sleeper and also for the ScotRail franchise. 

"We intend to take those EMAs forward to the end of the franchise period in March 2022, and we're presently drawing that case together to put to the Finance Secretary.

"The final figures on that are still to be finalised at this stage."

Mr Matheson said around £452 million in additional support has already been provided since March last year.

He added: "I would expect, broadly, a similar level of support being required for the remaining year through to March 2022.

"The significant challenge in being able to give you more specific figures around this is that one of the things we do hope will happen later this year is that we will start to see a recovery and a return to the use of public transport at a level which is significantly higher than we have had over the last year. 

"And therefore there is a possibility of further revenue returns to be achieved. 

"However at this stage it is difficult to predict what that will be."

He said the EMA will protect staff and ensure travellers have access to rail services. 

Officials confirmed the extra money means Scotland's railways are costing between £1.3 and £1.4 billion a year to run. 

Bill Reeve, director of rail at the Scottish Government, said the extent of additional subsidy depends on the rate at which passengers can return. 

He said the additional money fills in the gap caused by the missing passenger revenue.

ScotRail bosses previously said the agreement provides value for money as the level of support reduces in line with any increase in rail revenues.

Mr Matheson said he will set out the longer term future of Scotland's rail services later this month. 

The 10-year ScotRail franchise with Dutch-owned firm Abellio is due to end three years early in March 2022. 

There have been calls to bring it into public hands. 

Mr Matheson said he is in favour of a "public sector-controlled railway" and that the franchise system is "broken".