People are scared to use trains because of the pandemic the transport minister has said.

Confirming that ScotRail will be taken into public ownership and the train services run by a government controlled firm, Jenny Gilruth said passenger numbers were down, mostly due to covid.

She said ScotRail will be under public ownership from April 1 when the Abelio franshice ends.

Gilruth said changing patterns of travel need to be taken into account when building a new publicly owned service.

Glasgow Times:

She said: “The pandemic has had an impact. The rail industry must adapt to customer needs.

“People more likely to travel for leisure, weekends have become busiest time for rail travel rather than weekdays.”

Graham Simpson, Conservative transport spokesman asked about fares. He said: “Any vision needs to have lower fares.

Rail fares increased last month by 3.8percent taking the cost of a return ticket between Glasgow and Edinburgh to £27.60. The same trip by bus can be made for less than half that.

For Glasgow to Dundee a return is £51.The same bus trip costs almost half the price at £26

The Minister also said improving safety particularly for women would be a priority.

She said: “I want our railways to be safe places for women to travel.

She added: “It’s not just about ticket offices, it’s on platforms it’s walking to and from the station when it’s dark.”

Jamie Greene, conservative MSP told the minister: “There have been 676 hate crimes reported on trains, one third against LGBT community” and asked about action to ensure prosecution.

Gilruth said she was “Keen to meet with justice officials on this, to protect the most vulnerable.”