PASSENGER numbers at Helensburgh Central have fallen by more than a third since 2011, a recent study has found.

Statistics produced by the Office of Rail and Road, an independent regulator of transport in the UK, show that between 2011/12 and 2016/17, the number of people travelling from or to the station has decreased by over 445,000.

The dramatic drop is in stark contrast with other nearby stations, such as Garelochhead which has almost doubled its passenger count during the same period, and Dumbarton Central which has also shown a gradual increase from 736,000 to 814,000.

Commenting on the findings, Helensburgh and Lomond MSP Jackie Baillie said: “The steep fall in passenger numbers at Helensburgh Central since 2011 is unfortunate, but not surprising.

“Passengers have been hit hard by significant increases in the cost of rail travel and have been complaining about the unreliability of the service for some time.

“Passengers are clearly voting with their feet.

“I have raised the poor service with ScotRail/Abellio, including the axle counter failures at Craigendoran, and I know they are taking action to improve the service on this line.”

The rail company is set to increase its fares further at the start of next year as a 3.2 per cent rise in peak fares comes into force in January.

And Helensburgh local David Allan – who regularly commutes to work via the town’s central station – says the hit in the pocket is now forcing people to look for alternative methods of transport.

He said: “Helensburgh used to be a commuter town but ScotRail is pricing us out of the market.

“It’s no longer sustainable for people who maybe work in Glasgow or further afield and many simply can’t afford it anymore.”

The report, which used data from ticket sales to estimate passenger usage at stations, shows there has actually been a nationwide increase in passengers of 3.5million since last year, emphasising the issues faced by Helensburgh’s busiest station.

However, Peter Brown, vice convener of Helensburgh Community Council, believes the problems are not so widespread.

He said: "In my view, the line is generally run successfully. I don't use it that often, but when I do, it's usually on time and there are plenty of seats.

"The service works well for me and I don't have any particular axe to grind but I know this is not the case for everyone."

A ScotRail Alliance spokesman added: “We want to encourage as many people as possible to travel by train, and to make their journey a seamless one.

“The investment we are making now – in smart ticketing, in new ticket machines, in station improvements, in brand new electric trains for the Central Belt and in high-speed trains connecting Scotland's seven cities, will mean more seats, faster journeys and better services for our customers and help us achieve this goal.

“It's all part of our plan to build the best railway Scotland has ever had.”