The brakes have been put on plans to extend the ScotRail service from Perth to Edinburgh following a public consultation drawing hundreds of responses.
The national rail operator made the announcement following the response to its surveys on the proposed changes, which closed on October 2, 2021.
First revealed in August 2021, the plans were met with local criticism after it was announced a number of services would be cut, with the Perth to Edinburgh service set to travel via Dunfermline – upping the journey time to one hour and 40 minutes.
The main service between Inverness and Edinburgh going via Perth would have traveled via Stirling – where passengers would have to change trains.
Service changes between Perth and Kirkcaldy were also set to see a wait of at least half an hour at Ladybank for a connecting train.
The rail operator had planned to cut its services to alleviate a £243 million annual deficit, with the timetable to start in May 2022.
Then ScotRail received an unprecedented number of responses in their consultation, with 521 writing in to share their views on services between Edinburgh, Fife, Perth and Dundee.
As a result the new timetable will instead see the Perth and Edinburgh service take a more direct route, via Kirkcaldy, instead of Dunfermline.
The interval between services at the stations between Perth and Inverness will be “better spaced” with more trains stopping at some stations.
Perthshire North MSP John Swinney, Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart and Perthshire South and Kinross-shire MSP Jim Fairlie welcomed the news that ScotRail will amend their ‘Fit for the Future’ proposed service changes.
Mr Swinney said: “I am pleased that Scotrail has listened to the legitimate concerns raised by my constituents.
“It is vital that rail travel continues to be accessible to all my constituents, regardless of their location.
“And I will continue to monitor this issue in the months and years ahead.”
Mr Wishart called the announcement “a massive turnaround” from their original plan, which would have significantly increased journey times.
While Mr Fairlie welcomed the move after “many constituents” contacted him with concerns.
Scottish Conservative Mid Scotland and Fife MSPs Murdo Fraser and Liz Smith gave a “cautious welcome” to the ScotRail re-think.
Mr Fraser said: “It is a great relief to know that there will be a direct service between Perth and Kirkcaldy, as the planned changed route to travel via Dunfermline would have added at least 10 minutes to the journey.
“However, although ScotRail has said there will now be a ‘better spaced’ interval between services between Perth and Inverness, we need more detail on this as this is an issue which still causes concern.”
Liz Smith also felt there was “still some way to go” to satisfy public concerns about the proposed changes.
Scottish Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Mark Ruskell commented: “After months of delay, I’m happy to finally see ScotRail’s response to the timetable consultation.
“Hundreds of my constituents joined our campaign against the proposed cuts in September 2021.
“Thanks to them, we’re seeing ScotRail backing down on some of the most harmful proposals for rail services across Fife and Perth.”
Hourly train services are also set to return to Invergowrie Station.
Carse of Gowrie councillor Alasdair Bailey said: “Great news – Invergowrie is finally getting its hourly train service back from May 15 this year.
“Thank you to everyone that took the time to complete ScotRail’s survey last year.
“What’s even better is that they’re going to look again at the connection times at Dundee with the trains to The Ferry/Aberdeen at Dundee.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.