Speaking at the rail users' consultative committee meeting in Edinburgh, Mr MacDonald also signalled that the Scottish Executive would have significant powers to influence the development and operation of the railways in Scotland.
Mr MacDonald said:
'We have entered a new and exciting era in the development of the government's transport policy. It is one that has placed public interest at the centre of developing transport options.
'Scotland however will continue to define its own transport agenda. Not only will the Scottish Executive have the authority to issue binding instructions and guidance on those operating rail services starting and ending in Scotland, it will also have the ability to provide instructions and guidance on cross border services. Ultimately we are driving to provide a better deal for rail passengers in Scotland.'
1.Rail Users' Consultative Committees (RUCC's) were established under the Railways Act 1993 to represent the interests of rail passengers (and Caledonian McBrayne ferry passengers in Scotland). It is the official voice of rail passengers.
2.The Rail Users' Consultative Committee for Scotland (RUCCS) is one of eight committees in GB. The committees are currently funded by and report to the Rail Regulator, but operate independently. The government intend to transfer the responsibility for Rail Users Consultative Committee's to the new Strategic Rail Authority and to expand its role.
3.The government is committed to the establishment of a new Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) with increased regulatory powers to provide a clear, coherent and strategic programme for the development of the railways so that passengers' expectations are met, franchise commitments strengthened and customer interests protected.
4.The government will publish the Strategic Rail Authority Bill next year and if any legislative time is freed up as a result of agreement on the handling of the house of lords reform, the government will introduce, as a priority, the Bill in this parliamentary session.