During the recent election campaign, I spent a great deal of time stuck in a car on the M8 travelling from Edinburgh to constituencies across the central belt.

My jam-packed diary of engagements meant that travelling by car was often the only realistic option.

But when the opportunity arose to travel by train, I jumped at the chance.

Much of the time, travelling by train is an enjoyable experience – provided you can get a seat and the journey runs to time.

Over the past year Scottish Labour have been campaigning for better rail services alongside passengers and railway staff.

This has led to improvements and the ScotRail and Network Rail workforce should be thanked for their hard work and perseverance.

But the service is still far from perfect.

Too many trains are still delayed, which is the biggest frustration for weary passengers.

Yesterday, we revealed that ScotRail trains are failing to meet punctuality targets at nearly 60 per cent of stations.

So today, as part of Scottish Labour’s summer campaign For The Many, we are unveiling our proposals to improve Scotland’s railways.

Just one of our ideas is for automatic compensation for passengers when their journey is late.

Refunds would be automatically paid to passengers for delayed journeys purchased by smart card, credit card or debit card, and we want an awareness campaign so that all travellers, including those who pay by cash, are aware of their rights to compensation.

The SNP Government should put pressure on ScotRail to introduce the scheme and we would make it a requirement when a public sector operator takes over the franchise.

A publicly-owned railway system is the backbone of our plans.

Back in 2014, when the First ScotRail franchise was coming to an end, Labour and the trade unions urged the SNP to pause the awarding of a new contract. We said the government should wait until powers were delivered through The Vow to return ScotRail to the public sector.

The SNP, displaying the ineptitude in office which has become their hallmark, refused to wait – and awarded the contract to Dutch firm Abellio.

Scottish Labour would bring ScotRail and the Caledonian Sleeper into public ownership – and a UK Labour government would do the same with contracts across the entire British network.

When East Coast Rail was in public hands, it returned more than £1billion to the taxpayer to be reinvested in the service instead of going into the pockets of shareholders.

Under Labour, that can happen again – which means we could invest to tackle overcrowding.

We will also continue our fight for fairer ticket prices.

Last winter, when there was chaos across the network, we put forward a plan to freeze fares. Once again, the SNP didn’t listen but we will continue to press for a fair deal in 2018.

Labour are also committed to free wifi across the UK network, we want to end the expansion of driver-only operations and introduce legal duties to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

Only with Labour can the UK have a modern rail network that is both reliable and affordable.

This article first appeared in the Daily Record newspaper on the 8th of August 2017.

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