SCOTRAIL have come under fire for sending 11 of their trains down to Yorkshire permanently – despite planned replacements not being operational.

The rail operator said the trains were sent south of the Border after their lease expired on December 12.

But LibDem chief Willie Rennie said with all the problems on Scotland’s rail lines in recent weeks, it was a “huge forward planning failure”.

The delay in the new Hitachi trains being sent to Scotland, as well an industrial dispute and a shortage of train crew has caused hundreds of delays and cancellations since the start of the month.

Earlier this week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs ScotRail had been responsible for approximately 144 cancellations on Monday.

Rennie said: “With the new timetable launching and the Scottish rail network struggling, it is astonishing that ScotRail chose this moment to hand back six 158 class trains to Northern Rail. This seems like a huge forward planning failure.

“The result means chaos for commuters at Dalmeny, Fife and Inverkeithing, who found there was no room for them to get on to shortened trains.

“Why on earth are ScotRail handing back trains when all the new trains haven’t even arrived yet?

“It also begs the question why the First Minister and Michael Matheson failed to mention this when they were challenged in the Scottish Parliament this week.

“Passengers just want trains to be reliable and value for money but recently they’ve been getting neither.

“The Transport Secretary must address the catalogue of errors and mismanagement that has been holding up Scottish passengers.”

ScotRail said the trains being removed was factored into the new timetable change which came into force on December 10, and they were leaving to free up space in the depots for new and refurbished trains.

A ScotRail spokesman added: “We know that one of the biggest concerns for our customers is busy trains – we do all that we can to meet demand, which can peak at different times.

“We run over 2400 services every single weekday and every available train we have is out on the network to get our customers where they need to be.”

“Next year, we will begin to redeploy more of our existing Class 170 trains to Fife and the Borders. These trains will add more than 5000 extra seats each day.”

During Thursday’s First Minister’s Questions, Sturgeon said the Government expected “better from the rail operator”.

Meanwhile, ScotRail has encouraged travellers to check timetables before catching the train over Christmas and the New Year.

The holiday timetable means last trains of the day will depart earlier than normal on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, and train times may be different over the Christmas and New Year period.

No trains will run on Christmas day or New Year’s day.