AN AYRSHIRE MSP has voiced her disappointment at Scotland's First Minister after challenging him over plans to axe a busy Largs commuter train service.

Katy Clark raised the issue with Humza Yousaf at Holyrood after ScotRail announced plans to remove the 7.42am Monday-Saturday train from Largs to Glasgow from the timetable from May 21.

That train will now start from Ardrossan South Beach.

In the exchange in the Holyrood chamber, Mr Yousaf said: "My understanding is that, under ScotRail’s new May 2023 timetable, the number of daily services will remain the same, with no overall reduction, and resources will be focused on areas to better serve current demand.

"As a result, peak-time trains and school connections have been prioritised to support the modal shift that Katy Clark referred to.

"I want to make Scotland’s public transport system more accessible, I want to make it more available and I want to make it more affordable.

"That is why I confirmed last month that the six-month pilot to remove peak-time fares from ScotRail services will start in October."

Katy Clark responded in the chamber: "Despite the Scottish Government’s goal of reducing car use by 20 per cent by 2030, ScotRail proposes to cut many train services, including many commuter services, including the 7.42am service from Largs to Glasgow. Will the First Minister look at the case for maintaining this service? Does he agree that we need to do far more to encourage people to use the railways rather than cars, if we are to achieve our climate change target? Will he assess how the timetable changes that ScotRail has proposed will impact on meeting such goals?"

Mr Yousaf said: "It is important to make public transport as available, affordable and accessible as possible in order to achieve the modal shift from the car to public transport.

"On the operational matters that Katy Clark referred to, I will ensure that the Minister for Transport engages with ScotRail, but they are matters for ScotRail. My understanding is that the 7.42am from Largs to Glasgow will be replaced by the 7.54am from Ardrossan to Glasgow, and that a train from Ardrossan to Glasgow that departs at 7.26am has been added to the timetable.

"The May 2023 timetable will also provide journey-time savings for passengers who travel on the Ayr-Glasgow route.

"Following customer feedback, the Ardrossan and Largs services now call at stations in the Garnock Valley, in order to improve connectivity. Changes that have been directly influenced by user feedback have been made across the timetable.

"Katy Clark is absolutely right that we need to continue to do more to ensure that the modal shift from car to public transport happens.

"That is why I am really pleased that one of my first acts as First Minister was to announce the beginning of the pilot to abolish peak rail fares, which will run for six months from October this year."

Following the exchange, Ms Clark commented: “I am disappointed that the First Minister simply dismissed the proposed cut and suggested this was simply an ‘operational’ matter.

“The fact is that this is a damaging and unnecessary cut which will affect everyday commuters has been imposed without consultation. The Scottish Government is ultimately accountable for the decisions on our railways and should be ruling out axing lifeline commuter services such as the 7.42am from Largs to Glasgow.

“The 7.42am service is important for those commuting to work as well as school children travelling to school. Largs and the surrounding area already lags behind many other communities across the West of Scotland when it comes to rail services.

“I’m writing to ScotRail directly about the potential impact of this cut, and will continue to fight for the service this community deserves."