SCOTRAIL hailed improvements to puncuality in the last month despite hundreds of service cancellations since the introduction of a new winter timetable.

According to ScotRail a total of 84.2 per cent of its trains arrived at their destination within five minutes of schedule in the four weeks to January 5 compared to 83.4 per cent over the previous four weeks.

The figures arrived a matter of days after transport secretary Michael Matheson warned Abellio, the Dutch transport firm that runs ScotRail, that it could be stripped of the franchise if its performance does not improve.

ScotRail has till February 19 to submit a plan to address falling performance levels which if unsuccessful could result in a breach of contract and lead to Abellio losing the ScotRail franchise early.

That came after hundreds of train cancellations, skip stopping and even more carriage cuts - a major cause of overcrowding - since the new winter timetable was launched in December 9.

HeraldScotland:

One complaint about overcrowding on Thursday

Abellio is expected to hit a target of 92.5% of trains arriving at their final destination within five minutes of the advertised time, according to the terms of the ScotRail franchise.  

On Friday passengers continued to suffer as more than 70 services had carriage cuts.

Issues have been blamed on training issues with new trains leading to staff shortages, while strikes and dealing with train faults also impacted.

One woman on Thursday evening needed treatment after collapsing on a downsized train in South Lanarkshire with fellow travellers blaming it on overcrowding.

ScotRail said punctuality was the best since September, for the period from December 9, when the new timetable came in, to January 5.

ScotRail Alliance managing director Alex Hynes said: “This has been a challenging time for Scotland’s railway. While we know that our performance has not been good enough, it is encouraging to see our punctuality continuing to improve across the country.

“Everyone at the ScotRail Alliance is working flat out to provide customers with the service they deserve. We are training more than 20 drivers and conductors every day, and this will deliver continual improvements in the coming weeks and months.”

ScotRail accepted that "despite the improvement in puncuality" there have been "challenges" including daily services being cancelled to allow drivers and conductors to be trained on new trains and new routes.