After years of service issues and rising fares, the Scottish Government will take ScotRail into public ownership later this year.

Under Abellio, the Dutch state company running ScotRail, passengers have suffered from overcrowded, late or delayed trains and deteriorating station facilities.

Most worryingly, Abellio has frequently failed to meet official standards on everything from toilets to station lighting to security so in just over six years, the penalties incurred by the operator have reached over £14 million.

Given this record of colossal failure, you’d expect the Scottish Government to ensure long-term strategic decisions affecting our railways are made in-house.

We’re seeing the opposite.

Abellio have now launched a public consultation on plans to cut ticket office opening hours across the country, but this will come into effect when it will no longer manage services.

Opening hours will be slashed at 120 of 140 offices across the country.

The picture in Ayrshire is particularly stark: Saltcoats and Ardrossan South Beach offices’ hours will both be cut, including by more than six hours on Mondays to Thursdays; Irvine will also see cuts every day, including by nearly five hours Mondays to Thursdays.

Three ticket offices in Inverclyde will completely close.

ScotRail cite a drop in daily journeys, and of course, the pandemic has not helped revenue as many people have not travelled by train.

Rail bosses therefore believe operating the same level of service is “inefficient” and not “cost effective”.

But it’s an extraordinarily short-sighted way to run a public service.

Vending machines can’t be expected to fulfil the role of a staff member dedicated to answering enquiries and assisting passengers, particularly when the network faces frequent challenges.

It also underplays the role staff play in managing safety and reassuring passengers, especially women and vulnerable people during the dark winter months.

Anti-social behaviour is also only likely to increase.

Unfortunately, Transport Minister Graeme Dey doesn’t seem to have any intention to block these damaging cuts despite pleas from worried passengers and the workers who will lose their jobs.

It comes just months after the Scottish Government ignored calls from MSPs and trade unions to block Abellio’s proposed service cuts of 300 rail services a day from May onwards.

Under the proposed new timetable, the number of daily journeys between Monday and Friday from Saltcoats will drop by 12 per cent compared to the last equivalent Summer timetable published prior to the pandemic.

Daily journeys from Ardrossan South Beach, Ardrossan Town and Ardrossan Harbour to Glasgow will drop by 13 per cent, 16 per cent and 17 per cent respectively.

We also face the biggest hike to rail fares in nearly a decade, set to rise by 3.8 per cent.

All these decisions are inexplicably being taken by an operator Ministers describe as “not fit for purpose” and utterly undermines the Scottish Government’s stated ambition to encourage people to drive less and use public transport more.

Franchising has failed, but nationalisation is not enough. Ministers urgently need to block cuts, protect jobs and engage with passengers and trade unions before it’s too late.