Elderly and disabled denied Borders rail discount

The Borders Railway, set to open in September, faces competition to attract passengers. Picture: Scott Louden
The Borders Railway, set to open in September, faces competition to attract passengers. Picture: Scott Louden
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PENSIONERS and disabled ­people living along the Borders Railway will be denied cheap fares unlike those using nearby lines, The Scotsman has learned.

Midlothian and Scottish Borders councils confirmed they will not offer discounts to residents using the Edinburgh-Tweedbank route due to open in September.

By contrast, people over 60 or with disabilities in neighbouring East and West Lothian receive a range of discounts, such as half-price travel on local lines.

A total of 282,000 journeys were made using the West Lothian scheme last year and 136,000 in East Lothian.

Disabled people in Edinburgh are eligible for free rail travel across the Lothians as part of a Taxicard scheme.

The news is likely to reinforce concerns about passenger numbers on the railway to a relatively sparsely populated area.

The 30-mile route will have seven new stations south of the current terminus at Newcraighall on the edge of Edinburgh – four in Midlothian and three in the Borders.

The over-60s and disabled already qualify for free bus travel.

Lobbying group the Scottish Accessible Transport Alliance (Sata) called for a rethink on discount fares.

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Spokesman Alan Rees said: “It is entirely illogical for concessionary rail fares to be available for disabled people travelling in and out of Edinburgh if they live in East or West Lothian, but not from the Scottish Borders or Midlothian.

“It is a matter for individual local authorities who fund them, but it is high time they all got their act together.”

Sata secretary Mike Harrison added: “Concessionary travel should be extended, especially for the benefit of people in areas with an infrequent or non-existent bus service. Trains are also often far more accessible.”

Age Scotland, the country’s largest charity for older people, said it was crucial transport was affordable. A spokesman said: “It is very important for older people to be involved in community life, to get out and about, and remain active and positive about their later years.

“The availability of quality, and affordable, transport is central to achieving this goal.”

Simon Walton, chairman of the Campaign for Borders Rail, which lobbied for the line re-opening, said: “I can’t see why there is concessionary rail travel in one part of the country and not another.”

A Scottish Borders Council spokesman said: “The only group to get concessionary fares through the council for the Borders Railway are the blind and partially sighted. But people can use off-peak discounts and other discounted rates, such as children and railcard holders.”

A Midlothian Council spokeswoman said: “We don’t plan to offer concessionary fares for the Borders Railway.

“Concessionary fares will obviously still be available to groups, from National Rail, while people who are blind or partially sighted will be eligible for concessions.”