New transport minister Jenny Gilruth opposed ScotRail cuts as backbench Fife MSP

New transport minister Jenny Gilruth campaigned last year as a Fife MSP against ScotRail's plans to not reinstate trains cut during the pandemic and increase some journey times, it has emerged.

Ms Gilruth, who was appointed last week, has rail services among her responsibilities.

She is likely to have to decide on ScotRail’s plans to cut 300 services a day from pre-pandemic levels from May because the train operator will come under direct Scottish Government control in April.

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The Mid Fife and Glenrothes SNP MSP said in September last year that fewer services and longer journey times for commuters between Markinch and Edinburgh were “not acceptable” and might prompt many to drive to work instead.

Jenny Gilruth, right, with fellow MSPs at Waverley Station in a photograph posted on her Instagram account last September

She posted on her Instagram account: “I have called on ScotRail to rethink their proposed changes to Markinch train services as ScotRail bosses propose less train services and a ten-minute increase in journey times.

"For commuters, not only are they losing two services at peak times, but the proposed changes would mean departing no later than 7:28am to reach Edinburgh Waverley before 9am.

"Average journey times will see an increase from 48.97 minutes at the start of 2020 to 59.41 minutes in the proposed timetable for Edinburgh to Markinch services.

"Markinch to Edinburgh services would see an increase from 54.33 minutes to 64.44 minutes respectively.

ScotRail plans to not reinstate 300 services a day from pre-pandemic levels. Picture: John Devlin

"The proposed changes to the service between Markinch and Edinburgh [are] not acceptable and do not serve the interests of local people, many of whom commute to Edinburgh on a daily basis.

"At a time when the Scottish Government is encouraging people to use public transport to reduce their carbon footprint, these proposed changes will mean that many commuters from Fife now choose to drive to get to work on time.”

Under the ScotRail proposals announced in August last year, some 2,100 weekday trains would run compared to 2,400 before the Covid crisis – or about one in eight fewer than in 2019.

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However, the total is higher than the current level of some 1,800 services, which were last month temporarily reduced by around 160 a day from 2,000 because of Covid-related staff absences.

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A rail union leader welcomed Ms Gilruth’s past opposition to the proposed changes.

Kevin Lindsay, Scotland district organiser for the train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “I look forward to working with a transport minister who is committed to stopping the rail services cuts in Fife, but I hope that her passion for stopping the cuts goes further than her own constituency.

"If the Scottish Government is serious about reducing Scotland’s carbon footprint, then it’s more trains that’s required, not fewer.”

A spokesperson for Ms Gilruth said: “The minister welcomes the opportunity the consultation has given rail users and communities to express their views about the proposed timetable changes.

"Encouraging people to take part in such consultations and sharing her views on the potential impact of any proposal is what constituents might reasonably expect of their MSP.

"As the consultation has now closed, the minister will consider all its outcomes before giving further views.”

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