SCOTRAIL has made a £26m loss despite a boost in public funding to over £850m.

The latest financial overview shows the train operator's deficit fell in a year from £56m in 2019/20 to £26m in 2020/21.

But Scottish Government funding to cover losses with ScotRail rose from £526.3m to £853.7m.

The train operator run by state-owned Dutch transport firm Abellio, slumped from £360.4m in 2019/20 to must £53.5m.

ScotRail passenger numbers fell by up to 95 per cent during lockdowns, while Caledonian Sleeper, which cut its Scotland-London services, saw ticket sales fall from £26m to £6m.

In March, last year, the Scottish Government said ScotRail would come under public ownership run through an arm’s-length company controlled by the Scottish Government, declaring that the current system of rail franchising was "no longer fit for purpose”.

The move come through "operator of last resort arrangements" after it was decided it was not the right time to seek a franchise procurement competition to run Scotland's railways after Abellio ends it control in March, 2022.

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It came a year after ministers announced it had stripped Abellio of the franchise three years early in the wake of continuing outcry over service failings and rising costs to the taxpayer.

ScotRail lost as much as 95 per cent of its passengers at the start of the pandemic in 2020 but kept a minimum of two-thirds of its services running to ensure key workers such as hospital staff could still travel.

ScotRail chief operating officer Ian McConnell said: “The pandemic has had a devastating impact on businesses across the world, and ScotRail is no different.

“Thanks to emergency Scottish Government support, ScotRail has continued to operate a reliable service for key workers and is now supporting the country as we continue to face challenges from the Omicron variant.

“To build a more sustainable and greener railway for the future and reduce the burden on the taxpayer, we need to change.

"All of us in the railway – management, staff, trade unions, suppliers, and government – need to work together to modernise the railway so that it is fit for the future.”

Concerns about the Abellio performance came after a 2018 winter timetable with the introduction of high-speed trains and new class 385 electric trains ushered in months of cancellations and disruption to services with much of it put down to staff shortages partly due to training to deal with the new trains.

ScotRail was forced to submit a plan by February, 2019, to address falling performance levels which, if unsuccessful, could result in a breach of contract and lead to Abellio losing the franchise early.

Caledonian Sleeper losses, meanwhile fell from £4.6m to £3.9m, while ticket sales for the Scotland to London services fell from £26m to £6m.

Financial support for Caledonian Sleep rose from £15m to £48m.

A spokesperson for Serco, which operates the Caledonian Sleeper on a 15-year franchise until 2030, said: “The last financial year was challenging for the whole rail industry.

"Caledonian Sleeper was no exception and the service was impacted by covid with passenger numbers and revenue dropping significantly.

“This resulted in a significant underlying loss for the year to March 2021, despite the emergency measures agreements that are in place with Transport Scotland, and no dividend was paid to the shareholders.

“Since the easing of Covid restrictions, we are now seeing a gradual but steady improvement in passenger numbers and the service has continued to provide an important service between Scotland and London.”