ADDITIONAL capacity to meet demand on the Fife Circle line is unlikely to be in place until at least June 2020.

ScotRail managing director Alex Hynes confirmed this as he met MSP Alex Rowley last week.

It appears the goalposts keep moving as ScotRail have told the Press continually in the past that they would provide an extra 5,000 seats per day for service in Fife by 2019, when pressed as part of our Crush Hour campaign.

Mr Hynes said he could not predict when new trains would be introduced on other routes so carriages could be moved to Fife but this could not happen until at least mid-2020.

Despite no end date for better services, a hike in rail fares for long-suffering West Fife commuters is planned for January.

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Mr Rowley is calling for a halt to fare increases on the Fife Circle until services are at an acceptable standard and has now written to the Transport Secretary calling for a number of actions to be put in place by the Scottish Government.

He said: "It is not unreasonable to ask the Scottish Government to freeze the fares until they address the issues and it is not unreasonable for hard-working Fifers to expect a decent rail service in return for their hard-earned cash.

"Mr Hynes confirmed that it is planned to increase rail fares this January by 2.8 per cent.

"When I suggested this was outrageous and no increases should take place until the services are at an acceptable level, he simply said this was a matter for the Scottish Government.

"Hence, I am now calling on the Scottish Government to introduce a fares freeze on all Fife Circle train journeys until such time as we are getting an acceptable service."

The Labour MSP has also highlighted the government's pledge to decarbonise Scotland’s railways by 2035 and has told the Secretary this will require significant infrastructure investment and the electrification of the Fife Circle.

He said: "Is Fife going to be at the end of the line for these improvements as well?

"It is not acceptable that we are basically being given every other area's hand- down trains when they are finished with them."

The Scottish Government admitted that ScotRail’s current fleet size was smaller than it had planned but they had been let down by its supplier.

ScotRail has also retained the Fife loco-hauled services as part of its Remedial Plan to preserve more stable capacity levels and refurbishment of its current fleet is under way.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Ministers and ScotRail are both deeply disappointed that, due to ongoing delays by high-speed trains supplier Wabtec, Fife is still waiting for further additional capacity.

"The Cabinet Secretary continues to press the various organisations involved to ensure there is a strong focus on completing the refurbishment programme and has challenged ScotRail to look at options to maximise use of diesel trains to provide robust capacity for passengers in Fife.

“Despite this, performance has been improving across Fife compared to last year. Commuters have seen a substantial reduction in cancellations as a result of train crew shortages since April 2019, with planned seating capacity being maintained.

“While any fare increase is unwelcome, calls for measures such as fares cuts or a fares freeze underestimate the impact of these on the public purse.

"Two-thirds of the cost of running the railway is already met through Scottish Government subsidy, with the remainder through rail passenger revenues. Any change to rail fares could, therefore, have a significant impact on the taxpayer.

"The ongoing UK-wide Williams Review offers an opportunity to reform the broken rail franchise system.

"Rather than implement any measures prematurely, we await the UK Government’s White Paper in the autumn before making fundamental change."