SCOTLAND'S train services will be taken into public hands from March 2022, it has been confirmed.

In 2019, the Scottish Government had elected not to renew the contract for Dutch operator Abellio, which had taken over from First in April 2015.

And earlier today, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said that due to Covid uncertainty, it would not be the right time to award a new franchise agreement to another company.

Instead, the government will observe its "operator of last resort" duties and take over operations using an arms-length company.

Mr Matheson did not confirm how long public ownership would last but added that ScotRail staff will transfer to the new Scottish Government company with their terms and conditions protected.

He said: "In taking the approach I've announced today, we will secure, stable delivery of rail services within public hands, and under Scottish Government control, providing certainty for passengers and rail staff.

"I firmly believe this approach will best serve the interests of passengers and taxpayers in the future."

RAIL REFORM: Hopes are still high that passenger services from Clacks to Fife will be restored in the future

RAIL REFORM: Hopes are still high that passenger services from Clacks to Fife will be restored in the future

Mr Matheson admitted there was an "ongoing problem within the rail network across the whole of the UK" – highlighting that Network Rail, which is currently nationalised, is responsible for managing the rail infrastructure, such as the tracks and signals.

"That fundamentally has to be addressed if we are to resolve these issues," he said. "The vast majority of delays and problems on the rail network are not caused by the rail operating company, but by infrastructure failures, and we need to address that effectively.

"That's why an integrated rail body that can deliver rail services is absolutely critical. And that's what we have to have the powers to do here in Scotland as part of any rail reform package brought forward by the UK Government."

Stirling Railway Station has witnessed a number of changes and improvements over the last few years,

An electrification project along the Queen Street-Alloa line was completed recently, amid hopes of the route being extended from Alloa through to Fife for passengers.

READ MORE: Re-opening Alloa-Fife railway line could support Covid recovery, argues MSP

Keith Brown, MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane constituency, added: "It is a bold move by the SNP Scottish Government and one which will bring welcome stability and certainty to those who use our railway for work and leisure, both in my constituency and across the country.

"It was really good, too, to hear that current ScotRail staff will transfer to the new Scottish Government-owned company, with their terms and conditions protected.

"I know that this will provide much-needed security to those who rely on our railways for their livelihoods."