FIFE politicians have hit out at plans to slash rail services across the Kingdom.

MSP Alex Rowley criticised the "curfew" put in place by ScotRail after they revealed their new temporary timetable, which comes into place from today.

He said Fifers won't be able to get in or out of Edinburgh by rail after 8pm, as 700 weekday trains are cut across the country, while under pressure transport minister Jenny Gilruth has insisted ScotRail services will "absolutely not" be reduced until summer 2023.

Mr Rowley said: "While I welcomed the move to nationalise ScotRail after its disastrous stewardship under Abellio, it would appear the SNP have only managed to herd the service into another disaster for the public.

"The cuts to services announced are a ScotRail imposed curfew and an unacceptable removal of services from the people of Fife that must be reinstated as a matter of urgency.

"Slashing services will affect Fifers in many different ways, from creating difficulty for workers commuting to and from the nation's capital city to something as simple as enjoying a night out."

Mr Rowley has requested a meeting with minister for transport Jenny Gilruth to discuss a resolution to the "unacceptable" changes.

ScotRail have cancelled hundreds of trains due to driver shortages after the union who represents the drivers, ASLEF, said it would ballot members for industrial action over pay disputes.

The company said they were reliant on drivers working overtime and on their rest days and that moves to recruit new drivers had been delayed by the pandemic.

Mr Rowley continued: "Instead of removing services, the Scottish Government should instead be working to resolve the issues raised by drivers and their union, ASLEF.

"It is particularly insulting to see ScotRail blame workers for these disruptions as they can't get volunteers to give up their free time and rest days to work for the understaffed service.

"I don't think I'm the only one who would prefer train drivers, responsible for the safety of thousands of passengers a day, to be well-rested rather than working overtime on what should be rest days.

"It is for ScotRail to appropriately staff their service, not for drivers to work around the clock to plug the gaps from poor staffing."

Fife MSP Clare Baker said ScotRail's move to cut a third of their services raises concerns about the safety of passengers.

"The current service has 11 trains running after 8pm each weekday, all of which have been cut," she said.

"This will have a huge impact on passengers and raises concern about safety in around stations.

"When the Scottish Government took control of ScotRail at the start of April we were promised improved services after years of disruption, delays, overcrowding and cancellations, but passengers are instead facing a huge cut in services after the biggest fare increase in a decade."

Ms Gilruth said 38 new drivers are expected to be trained by the end of the summer, rising to 55 by the end of the year and 100 by June 2023.

She said: "We want trade unions to come back to the table. But it is absolutely true to say that the network is dependent on rest day working at the present time.

"We need to phase out that practice. I know the unions are supportive of that. And I think too it's time for the unions to come back to the table to work with ScotRail."

She has also urged ASLEF to continue to discuss the dispute with ScotRail bosses, in the hope that there can be a "mutually agreeable outcome".

Ms Gilruth added: "This timetable is a temporary timetable and I don't want it to be in place for a minute longer."

ScotRail say that their priority is to protect journey times for as many customers as possible, making sure that the service remains reliable in the face of staff shortages.

David Simpson, their service delivery director, said: "The temporary timetable will see a reduction in service but will more importantly provide customers with a level of certainty and reliability.

"In order to provide a robust timetable with the limited number of available train drivers, we’ve had to make some very difficult decisions and this has meant we’ve been unable to provide a full day’s service across every route. We will review the service levels and make any improvements we can as quickly as possible.

"We’re sorry to our customers for the disruption they’ve faced, and we share their frustration.

"We want to resolve this dispute with ASLEF and move forward together to provide the safest, greenest, and most reliable railway we can for Scotland. We remain open to further talks with the trade unions."