Scottish ministers should stop blaming late and cancelled trains on Covid-19.
Conservative shadow transport secretary Liam Kerr said Scottish ministers were “conveniently blaming Covid, rather than tackling a long-term problem”.
His criticism is likely to be controversial.
The attack comes only a day after ScotRail announced it was cutting back January services because of Covid-19.
A Scottish Government-appointed public body will run the ScotRail franchise from the start of March 2022.
Pandemic ‘didn’t invent’ late trains
Mr Kerr said: “There is no question ScotRail staff have consistently gone above and beyond to keep services running these last two years.
“But late trains and disgruntled customers weren’t invented by the pandemic.
“This is another case of the SNP Government conveniently blaming Covid, rather than tackling a long-term problem.”
ScotRail is currently consulting on cutting services further as it wrestles with a deficit of around £243.5 million per year. The cuts will lengthen journey times between Edinburgh and Perth.
Mr Kerr continued: “It would appear their (Scottish Government ministers) solution is to cut the number of ScotRail services by 10% in three months’ time.
“They must be clear about how much this is going to impact taxpayers and public services — because anyone watching the ferries scandal will be asking questions about their track record here.
“And slashing journeys by rail will not cut car use or support our obligation towards carbon net zero.”
ScotRail compensation claims rising again
Mr Kerr made the comments as he highlighted large sums in compensation paid out by the operator since 2019.
He had asked transport minster Graeme Dey for a breakdown of ScotRail’s compensation payouts to passengers for late or delayed services.
The figures showed the rail operator paid out around £85,000 every four months prior to Covid-19.
The sums had begun to rise in recent months.
ScotRail bosses only paid out £3,600 at the start of the financial year. But the figure had risen to nearly £54,000 by November.
A Transport Scotland spokesperson suggested Mr Kerr was being unfair to ScotRail staff in raising the compensation issue at this time.
He said: “Focusing on compensation for issues that have already been well reported, not least some which happened several years ago, ignores the efforts made by ScotRail staff up and down the country to keep services moving throughout the pandemic.
“ScotRail has made it easier for passengers to claim compensation when things do go wrong.”
A ScotRail spokesperson said the rail operator remained “absolutely committed” to providing the best possible service for our customers.
“Our delay repay guarantee is at the heart of that approach.
“We know how inconvenient it is when things don’t go to plan, and it is only right that passengers are compensated when that happens.”