Perth commuters have accused rail bosses of “downgrading” key services to Edinburgh and Inverness.
ScotRail bosses have announced a consultation on key timetable changes as more passengers return to the rail service as pandemic restrictions ease.
The revised timetable – beginning May 2022 – contains 300 fewer services than before the pandemic.
The number of daily trains has fallen from 2,400 pre-pandemic to 2,100 under the new timetable proposals.
Why are Perth travellers angry?
The Perth to Edinburgh service will now travel via Cowdenbeath – adding 10 minutes to the journey time.
The main service between Inverness to Perth/Edinburgh will travel via Stirling – where passengers will have to change trains.
Journeys between Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh – another key commuter route – are also expected to take longer with additional stops on a greater number of services.
But additional trains will run between Dundee and Glasgow.
This will mean an hourly service calling at all stations between Dundee and Stirling.
Commuters in Invergowrie, for example, will enjoy their first hourly service since the early 1980s.
Fast and effective commuter links to Scotland’s other major cities are increasingly seen as key to Perth’s economic growth.
Greater use of public transport is also vital if Scotland is to hit pressing climate change targets.
Conservative Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser hit out at the “short-sighted” changes.
He said: “The proposed downgrading of the Perth to Edinburgh rail service is appalling and short-sighted.
“This is a service that is often used by passengers and usually proves popular with many people.
“The range from those who travel for work reasons to students and also residents who use the service in order to shop in either Perth or Kirkcaldy.
“It is nonsense to suggest that the service should now include Cowdenbeath, making the journey even longer.
“And it is also ridiculous to propose passengers travelling from Inverness to Perth/Edinburgh should have to change at Stirling, with the possibility that they may miss the required onward train.”
Should there be a direct link between Edinburgh and Perth?
He called for a direct rail link between Perth and Edinburgh.
“We have called for a direct rail link between Perth to Edinburgh for years, with a station created at Kinross, to cut the time taken to travel between the two cities.
“There has been increased housing development in Kinross and Fife in recent years so there is demand for a better rail service – one that is fit for the 21st century.”
The changes are likely to lead to increasing public anger against Dutch firm Abellio.
The company has been hit by numerous complaints about late or non-running trains and large, inconsistent fares.
The Scottish Government will take over the franchise from March next year.
The train operator says a “new, better performing” timetable will operate around 2,100 services per weekday “as the foundation to encourage a return to public transport following the pandemic.”
The company says its analysis shows that prior to the pandemic, on a number of routes across the country, significantly more seats were being provided than were required for the number of passengers travelling.
Scottish Government Transport minister Graeme Dey said: “This consultation exercise offers a real opportunity for customers and businesses to help shape a reliable and responsive timetable change from May 2022.”