ScotRail came under Scottish Government control on April 1, at a minimum cost of £4 million. Services were taken over from Dutch firm Abellio, which had run the franchise since 2015, after the company’s contract was ended early and its performance attracted heavy criticism.
But just weeks after taking on ScotRail, it was announced that 700 services would be slashed from its schedule across the country.
As the operator grapples with a trade union dispute, ScotRail will cut its services by a third from next week.
A new temporary timetable will take effect on Monday to work around a driver shortage, with ScotRail facing strikes led by the Aslef union.
For many routes catered by ScotRail, the final trains of the day will depart before 8pm.
This comes after Ms Sturgeon faced ire in Holyrood over the Ferguson Marine ferry contract, and the nationalising of the Glasgow Prestwick Airport back in 2013.
Stephen Kerr MSP, Scottish Tory whip, tweeted: “The SNP have made such a mess of nationalised transport, we will be a case study for years to come in how not to do it.
“Prestwick airport, CalMac ferries, Scotrail.
“Spending as much taxpayer money as possible while getting nothing in return. All Nicola Sturgeon’s doing.”
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Scottish Tory MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, Murdo Fraser, added: “What an absolute shambles. No sooner do the SNP nationalise ScotRail but services are being slashed.
“Can’t build ferries, can’t run a census, can’t run trains. We’ve never had such an incompetent Govt in Scotland.”
Mr Sturgeon has said the normal timetable operated by ScotRail will resume “as quickly as possible”, and that she hoped a “fair” but “affordable” solution could be reached.
Addressing Holyrood at First Minister’s Questions, the SNP leader said: “I always take the opportunity to apologise to any member of the public in Scotland who doesn’t get from a public service – whether that is the railway, or any other service – the standard they have a right to expect.
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“And that includes those who are being disrupted right now because of the temporary timetable being put in place by ScotRail.”
The First Minister added: “I would expect the timetable to return to normal as quickly as possible – and that expectation is being made very, very clear to ScotRail.”
She continued following questions from Scottish Tory leader, Douglas Ross: “It is important to note this temporary timetable is designed to give passengers more uncertainty in the short term.
“It is disruptive and it is not acceptable – that is why we must see all parties get round the table to agree a fair and affordable deal.”
However, Liz Cameron, chief of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said the trajectory of ScotRail is on the “opposite” course to the Government’s plans.
She said: “When the ScotRail franchise was taken on by the Scottish Government, businesses had hoped to see improvements to timetabling to better suit businesses and commuters, ensure that ticketing is accessible and affordable and deliver network-wide improvements that drive up business use and support economic growth.
“Regrettably, just weeks into the new publicly-owned franchise operation, the opposite is happening.”
ScotRail had already launched an offensive to attract travellers, cutting prices by half to boost passenger numbers.