ScotRail bosses have spent more than £200,000 on taxis for travellers after train services were cancelled since the service was taken into public ownership, figures show.
On one occasion, the rail operator spent £798.30 to send an eight-seat taxi from Wick to Inverness, with the vehicle stopping at all train stations in between.
In July 2022, ScotRail’s taxi bill amounted to £29,845.38, with private hires used 230 times.
In May last year, 289 taxis were used at a total cost for the month of £27,405.06.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats obtained the figures using freedom of information to reveal details of the spending.
The party found the total amount spent on taxis to replace train services in the 10 months from April 2022 totalled £205,854.41 – the equivalent of more than £20,000 a month on private hire vehicles since the service was taken into public ownership.
Lib Dem transport spokeswoman Jill Reilly said: “This is an astonishing sum of money for newly nationalised ScotRail to have shelled out in less than a year since the Government took it over.
“Even worse, it comes hot on the heels of the news that the service has racked up almost £650,000 in payments for delayed rail services.
“This is money that should be available for cutting fares and updating trains, carriages and stations.
“Commuters and rail users need a quality service that they can rely on if we are to tempt people out of private cars.
“The Scottish Government must work with ScotRail to cut down on their reliance on expensive and inefficient replacement transport services and deliver the rail service that taxpayers and travellers pay for.”
Transport minister Kevin Stewart stressed: “Overall, these figures represent a very small number of the passengers carried at any given time – in this case less than 0.004% (2164) of over 58 million journeys between April 2022 and the start of March 2023.”
He stated: “Any disruption to passengers is regrettable and it is only right that ScotRail do all they can to get customers to their destinations. This includes providing a taxi when this is the only means by which passengers can complete their journeys.
“Rather than criticise the ways in which passengers are assisted in such circumstances, we are focused on ensuring the publicly owned ScotRail is a success.”