Train operator under fire as 10% fare rises are lined up
TRAIN operator First ScotRail was criticised today after announcing fare rises of up to ten per cent - four times the rate of inflation.
The price hikes, which will take effect next month, will mean a cheap day-return between Edinburgh and Glasgow will rise by 8.5 per cent, from 8.20 to 8.90, while a standard day-return goes up four per cent, from 15.60 to 16.20.
First ScotRail claimed the rises had been triggered by a series of factors including soaring fuel costs.
But the rail consumer watchdog voiced concern and said the fare rises would do nothing to encourage people to go by train.
The biggest price increases include the cheap day-return between Edinburgh and Stirling, which will rise 9.7 per cent, from 6.20 to 6.80 and the off-peak fare between Edinburgh and Bathgate, which will go up 9.5 per cent, from 4.20 to 4.60.
Some commuter fares and other tickets are regulated by the Scottish Executive and First ScotRail said these would increase by 3.9 per cent - equivalent to inflation plus one per cent, in line with the franchise commitment and Scottish Executive and Strategic Rail Authority's guidelines.
First ScotRail was keen to highlight the fact it was freezing the cost of its advance-booked daytime Apex tickets.
It said increases on supersaver tickets would be limited to 2.9 per cent, with Edinburgh to Aberdeen or Inverness return fares increasing by 1 to 35.
And it said other fares would increase by an average of 3.7 per cent and supersavers would go up by 2.9 per cent.
But the rail consumers' watchdog was not happy about today's announcement.
Robert Samson of the Rail Passengers Council said: "We are concerned about the large increases in cheap day-returns on certain routes.
"Some passengers cannot book in advance and like to make journeys on the spur of the moment. These increases will not encourage people to travel, and overall performance over the last 12 months in terms of punctuality and reliability has remained static."
A spokesman for First ScotRail said: "A number of factors are behind the changes, some historical and some due to fares anomalies.
"They follow significant increases in fuel and crude oil in particular.
"We believe the fares represent good value for money, and continue to work on future plans for passenger growth."
Parent firm FirstGroup said last month that First ScotRail's fuel costs had increased by 20 to 30 per cent, adding millions of pounds to bills.
Edinburgh to Glasgow cheap day-returns have increased by 11 per cent since 1997 - less than half the inflation rate over the period. The tickets were reduced from 8.50 to 7 in 2000 and did not increase in 2002 or 2004.
The Executive, which now largely controls Scotland's railways, said its inflation-linked price cap on these fares was broadly similar to those in the utilities.
A spokesman said First ScotRail was not required to consult it about increasing uncapped fares, and it was not appropriate to comment on specific rises.
He said: "Some small fares can end up shifting by ten per cent simply because of the way fares are rounded to the nearest 5p.
"Thus a 50p fare going up by 5p to 55p is a ten per cent shift, but without necessarily being a huge event for the passenger where that fare has not been put up for several years."
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