Calls for a half hourly rail service to come to Largs were raised directly with ScotRail management at a recent community council meeting.

ScotRail had been invited to attend a meeting after concerns had been raised by the community in relation to Largs receiving a poorer service last year in terms of longer journeys to and from Glasgow. 

In addition, a petition has been launched by student Michael McKinlay calling for a half hourly service.

It was revealed by ScotRail at the meeting that the company earn £330million a year from national rail journeys, but with the overall service costing £1.1billion to run, for every £1 a customer pays for at ticket, the taxpayer is paying £2.

And a tough fiscal environment had resulted in more efficient measures, which resulted in the change to the timetable last year.

Community councillor Jamie Black said: "This issue goes back to April 2023 when changes were made by ScotRail, with journey times longer, fewer stops, and an important early morning service was taken away. 

"I wrote to ScotRail and challenged that and was told that there were workforce issues following the pandemic with lack of availability of drivers combined with more trains having to go to Troon because of the change of ferries from Ardrossan to Troon, even though there is no direct rail connection to the port.

"There was no consultation about the changes with the users or the community, albeit there was a consultation which took place in late 2023."

"We now face longer journey times, reduced services and at the very least we want to get back to where we were before April 2023."

And Mr McKinlay, who handed over his petition to ScotRail at the meeting, asked what more the community could do.

Scott Prentice, Commercial Director of ScotRail, said: "If we were designing a timetable from scratch, we would have a half hourly service to Largs.

"We want to run the trains to where most people live to and travel from.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: ScotRail: Scott Prentice attended Largs Community Council meetingScotRail: Scott Prentice attended Largs Community Council meeting (Image: Newsquest)

"We are in a tight fiscal environment and it is not the responsibility of ScotRail, but we have to rent space on track from Network Rail and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport is the regional body who is responsible for statutory matters in transport.

"You asked me what more the community could do, and we would suggest nudging Strathclyde Passenger Transport on the issue as Largs is, if it is not the biggest town with only an hourly service it is certainly within the top five, and that would allow us to at least get extra services."

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Michael McKinlay handed over petition to ScotRail at community council meetingMichael McKinlay handed over petition to ScotRail at community council meeting (Image: Facebook)

Councillor Ian Murdoch said: "Largs not just at end of line but there is also Cumbrae with a large number of people going over to Millport, specially over summer season.

"Various reasons passenger numbers has been reduced including reliability and safety issues, and we've had three or four times a week, or maybe five, because passengers have been thrown off trains at Garnock Valley, Kilwinning or Ardrossan."

Mr Prentice said: "Every new line that opens in Scotland or change to the service comes via a group like Strathclyde Partnership for Transport - we will back anybody who is wanting to make a case for investment in the rail network and we will help them to get the best possible case."

Mr Prentice also pointed out there was twice the size of population on the Kilwinning-Ayr side than the Kilwinning-Largs side, but did say he was 'very sorry' about the longer journeys on the Largs line. 

He did point out that the town is now more accessible from the Garnock Valley areas and statistics had shown that the timetable changes had seen increased usage in the trains.

He also said that the Largs line had not seen a reduction in the service and that services had instead been 'bunched together' in peak times and now instead were more evenly spread out.

Mr Prentice said that a positive sign was that passenger numbers were restoring following the pandemic, and in some cases, were even showing an increase from pre-2020.

He said: "Last summer more people were using the train at Largs, and the whole side of the corridor even than in 2019, pre-pandemic, and we saw similar increases in the Ayr line too."

Largs Community Council chairman Jim Phillips, who said he had himself been exasperated at times by the local rail service, thanked Mr Prentice for coming and invited him to return again in the future as the local campaign for a half hourly service grows momentum.