Rail passengers may get a fare deal
FARES on Scotland's railways could be cut to as low as £1 in an effort to fill empty seats and ease rush-hour congestion.
First ScotRail is considering slashing ticket prices on its least-used trains from next summer. The news comes days before train operators announce next month's fare increases, which are expected to include GNER raising some fares by more than 5 per cent - double the inflation rate.
First ScotRail is planning to follow the low-cost airlines in offering bargain-basement fares on specific trains for passengers booking early. This could be followed by a last-minute seat sale to fill any remaining capacity.
First ScotRail said it had identified a "real opportunity for growth" if it could fill the number of empty seats on off-peak trains. A trial could start on some off-peak services in May or June.
Gordon Dewar, the firm's commercial director, told The Scotsman: "I think we can be quite aggressive, with some of the headline figures very low indeed to get people's attention.
"I have no problem in principle with a 1 fare, but it is subject to commercial viability. We have no current plans for a 1 fare, but are looking at all options."
At present, even a single ticket between Waverley and Haymarket stations in Edinburgh costs 1.30. James King, of the Rail Passengers Council, said: "Any future move to offer lower cost off-peak rail travel will give passengers greater choice of travel mode."
The plans follow moves by South West Trains in England, which cut off-peak fares to 1 in its "megatrain" carriages, which Virgin is considering copying.
First ScotRail is discussing its plans with the Scottish Executive, which must approve any changes. However, the Executive's current consultation into the future of the railways states that on the most congested commuter routes, "differential fares for earlier or later services may be a very effective way of spreading the load across a greater period without the need of additional services".
An Executive spokesman said: "We are currently reviewing with First ScotRail the information on which future fares policy will be based. It is too early to commit to particular fare decreases."
GNER is expected to raise some fares between Scotland and London by more than 3 per cent above inflation - currently 2.3 per cent - from January.
The firm is under huge pressure to increase revenue because it will have to pay the government 1.3 billion over the next decade in return for its franchise.
First ScotRail declined to comment on any increases, but rises to standard single and return tickets will be limited to 1 per cent above inflation.
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