MSPs have called for an urgent review of rail services amid revelations that Scots are paying a third more in fares and taxes than elsewhere in Europe for uncomfortable and overcrowded old trains.
Fines should also be handed out if trains run more than a minute late, in contrast to the current system that rewards train operators for being up to 10 minutes late.
Holyrood's Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee heard that rail is "massively overfunded by the Scottish Government and taxpayers' money".
In a report on the pending renewal of the Scottish passenger rail franchise it called for efficiency targets set out in the McNulty Review of UK Rail to be realised.
McNulty found that UK fares are around 30% higher and taxpayers are paying at least 30% more than elsewhere in Europe.
The committee's Rail 2014 report released on Monday has recommend more regular upgrades and improvements of trains after hearing that longer distance carriages are outdated and uncomfortable.
It stated: "The Committee considers that a much more strategic view must be taken of rolling stock (trains) so that requirements can be planned well in advance, thereby bringing cost efficiencies and stability in the fleet over the long-term.
"The Committee considers that the franchisee must be required, as part of the contract agreement, to undertake this long-term planning in conjunction with Transport Scotland and the Roscos (Rolling-Stock Operating Companies) and that this process must begin urgently."
Operators currently face fines for poor performance and receive incentives to exceed standards in punctuality and reliability.
However, local trains are described as on-time if they arrive within five-minutes and long-distance trains within the 10-minutes of the scheduled time.
The Committee stated: "These thresholds do not adequately reflect the difficulties and inconvenience caused to passengers who are on trains that arrive late but still within the relevant threshold.
"The Committee, therefore, recommends that the PPM (Public Performance Measurement) thresholds should be reduced, on a phased basis if necessary, so that a train will be considered on-time only if it arrives within a minute of its timetabled target."
Overcrowding was highlighted as an issue that affects many rail services in Scotland, in particular on trains running at peak times, prompting calls for action.
The committee has also made a raft of other recommendations, including extending the franchise period to up to 13 years to promote stability and long-term planning, simplification of fares and tickets, and the development of an integrated ticket for all public transport similar to London's Oyster Card.
Station facilities should also be upgraded to be fully accessible to all passengers.
Committee Convener Maureen Watt MSP said: "Underpinning all actions in relation to the future of Scotland's railway service must be the passenger — who cares little about how the franchise is run, as long as it delivers value for money, punctuality, frequent services and most importantly, a seat.
"Throughout the evidence we heard of ideas and existing good practice that Transport Scotland could use to ensure that the efficiency savings recommended in the McNulty Report are realised. We have made our recommendations as the new passenger rail franchise is progressing and intend to monitor progress towards a more cost and user efficient service."
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government is thoroughly committed to encouraging more people to use public transport and our record investment in the railways is evidence of this.
"Following the Rail 2014 consultation, Transport Minister Keith Brown announced a £30m fund for new and improved stations, investment of at least £100m for the Caledonian sleeper and continued direct cross-border services north of Edinburgh.
"We welcome the ICI report and the findings will be taken into consideration along with the consultation responses as we prepare the next franchise agreement."
Labour infrastructure and capital investment spokesman Richard Baker said: "The SNP needs to think again about its whole approach to rail services in Scotland.
"The last fare increases saw hard-pressed passengers clobbered with a 6% hike in ticket prices, at the very time SNP ministers were proposing slower trains, station closures and more overcrowding.
"We believe we need to review the current arrangements for awarding the ScotRail franchise. We should look at the possibility of new ways to run our rail services and not only consider private sector models.
"The Committee's view that the franchise should be awarded for a longer period deserves careful consideration, but if pursued must be balanced by transparency in the process and accountability for those running our vital train services. When the SNP extended the current franchise without consultation that was not in the interests of rail users.
"The SNP government is out of touch with ordinary rail passengers and seems determined to stack the odds in favour of the big train operators. It is time passengers were put before profits."
Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: "One of the key areas of this report is extending the period in which franchises are for.
"There has been some opposition to this, but it is important to do this because it helps boost the confidence of franchisees for the future.
"One area I dissented from was the decision not to have the government protect any losses that would come from industrial action.
"I believe franchisees should be protected from political activity such as strikes, but this was not backed up by the committee."
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