Hard-pressed rail passengers in Scotland are to be offered extra compensation by train operator ScotRail amid growing anger over delays and cancellations.
But the move has been branded a “gimmick” by critics who have stepped up calls for trains to be taken into public hands in Scotland.
The rail operator has been under fire over plunging performance levels around the country following the introduction of a new timetable in December.
Conductors and drivers being trained on new trains and routes has been blamed as a major reason for the disruption, with training expected to continue into February.
Compensation is already available to passengers delayed more than 30 minutes under the Delay Repay Guarantee, with 50 per cent of the cost of a single ticket or 25 per cent of the cost of a return paid back.
Extra compensation will now apply to season ticket holders who use routes that have been most affected by cancellations.
Season ticket holders, accompanied by one extra person, on routes most affected by traincrew shortages are being offered travel anywhere on ScotRail services for six specified weekends in March, April and May
Alex Hynes, ScotRail Alliance managing director, admitted that the operator has fallen below the standards expected by customers.
“We are very sorry to our ScotRail customers for unacceptable service in parts of the country recently,” he said.
Protesters gathered outside Glasgow Central Station yesterday morning to call for action to be taken against the rail operator.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard attended the protest and backed calls from unions for the railway franchise to be removed from Dutch operator Abellio and returned to public ownership.
His party criticised the compensation as a “gimmick” which is “just not good enough” and said a real compensatory move would have been to back the call for a fare freeze.
Tory transport spokesman Jamie Greene said the offer would not adequately compensate passengers for the “chaos” they experienced.
“What they want is real action taken to ensure that they have an effective and reliable train service that they can rely on, not cheap offers to buy them off,” he said.
A Scottish Government spokesman says it will listen to bids from public sector operators when the current contract expires.