UP to four children will be able to travel for free on ScotRail trains with every adult this weekend, as the rail franchise comes back into public ownership.

To celebrate the transition, children will be able to ride the trains for free on Saturday and Sunday if accompanied by a fee-paying adult.

On Friday, the franchise transfers from Dutch firm Abellio into public ownership.

Abellio has been running ScotRail since 2015 but it has faced criticism over performance levels.

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Its contract is being brought to an end three years early, having been due to last until 2025.

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth said: “Bringing ScotRail passenger services under public control and ownership puts passengers and staff at the heart of Scotland’s rail services.

“It’s a historic occasion and one that marks a key milestone in our ambitious Programme for Government to support a greener, fairer Scotland.

“This is an opportunity to deliver a railway which is for the benefit of the people of Scotland and everyone who travels by rail – customers, staff and stakeholders, not shareholders.

“The national conversation that gets under way this spring will provide an opportunity for staff, passengers and communities to have their say in how we shape Scotland’s railway and ScotRail in particular.

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“To celebrate this transition, under the banner It’s Yours to Use, we are providing free travel on April 2 and 3 for up to four children with every fare-paying adult.

“We are encouraging everyone who can to travel by rail this weekend to show our pride in Scotland’s railway and our support for those who work hard to operate it on daily basis.”

Timetables will remain the same as planned and train livery is not changing, though the word Abellio will be removed from signs and printed materials.

A publicly-owned company called ScotRail Trains Limited will operate train services, overseen by a public body called Scottish Rail Holdings.