Rail bosses have spent more than £330,000 on taxis for travellers after trains were cancelled since ScotRail was taken into public ownership less than two years ago.
Figures obtained using freedom of information legislation by the Scottish Liberal Democrats show that in June this year alone, the bill for taxis amounted to £40,547.73.
The single most expensive journey was a fare of £798.30 from Wick to Inverness, calling at all the usual rail stops in between, for an eight-seater taxi, with ScotRail insisting it has a “duty to provide alternative transport”.
The rail operator also spent £666.36 on a taxi from Glasgow Queen Street station to Fort William and back – taking passengers in both directions.
Between April 2022, when ScotRail was taken into public ownership, and the end of September 2023, the total bill for replacement taxis was £331,061.03.
Lib Dem transport spokeswoman Jill Reilly said the money used on taxis should instead be available “for updating trains, carriages and stations, giving hardworking commuters and rail users the quality service they need”.
She called on the Scottish Government to work with ScotRail to end its “reliance on expensive and inefficient” replacement transport when train services are cancelled at short notice.
Ms Reilly said: “Ministers repeatedly stressed that nationalising ScotRail would improve accountability. If that’s the case then ministers need to explain why so much money is being wasted.
“The Scottish Government must work with ScotRail to cut down their reliance on expensive and inefficient replacement transport services and deliver the rail service that taxpayers and travellers pay for.”
However Transport Scotland insisted the Liberal Democrats’ criticism was “misplaced”, adding there have been fewer services cancelled since ScotRail was nationalised.
A spokesperson said: “At a time when everyone in Scotland’s railway has been focused on ensuring the best festive service with more bank holiday trains than ever before, this attack is misplaced.
“Despite extreme weather events and strike action caused by the UK Government’s confrontational approach to industrial relations, cancellations remain low at around an annual average of 2.8% of all services. That’s fewer cancellations than the period immediately before public ownership.
“It is right that ScotRail makes every effort to get disrupted passengers to their destinations, whether that’s because of planned improvement works or unforeseen events.”
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