Nicola Sturgeon says she’ll consider rail fare freeze

Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon

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Nicola Sturgeon said she will consider a Labour demand for a rail fare freeze after another morning of delay and disruption on the rail network.

At First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon was challenged by Labour’s Kezia Dugdale over a points failure that affected trains going to and from Glasgow Central.

Ms Dugdale said one third of trains had been running late at one stage that morning saying that passengers “deserved a break”.

“That is why Labour is publishing a plan to freeze all regulated rail fares next year,” Ms Dugale said. “She (Ms Sturgeon) has the power to give them one, so will she back Labour’s call for a 2017 rail freeze?”

Ms Sturgeon replied saying she would “consider any proposal put forward” adding that she would have to examine how a freeze would be paid for.

“Of course we do not want to see rail fares increase any more than is absolutely necessary,” the First Minister said. “That’s why we at the moment have increases in rail fares that are at the lowest level since powers over railways were devolved to this parliament in 2005. We see peak time rail fare increases limited to inflation. Off peak rail fare increases are actually limited to inflation minus one per cent. That is the discipline we exert on rail fares. We will consider any proposals, but above all else we will make sure we have fairness around the funding of our railways so that we can carry out the investments that are required to make sure the standards do improve on our railways.”

Rail fares are due to increase by up to 1.9 per cent in January. This would see the cost of an Edinburgh-Glasgow season ticket rise by more than £71.

According to Labour, the SNP’s cap on rush hour fares has increased by over 23 per cent since 2011 - more than three times the increase in the rate of earnings.

The cost of implementing a freeze is estimated at £2 million. Earlier Ms Sturgeon told Ruth Davidson that ScorRail would publish its Improvement Plan within the “next few days”.

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