SCOTRAIL passengers will enjoy a lower fares increase next year than on other train operators and benefit from a freeze in off-peak ticket prices, it was announced today.
The firm which runs most trains in Scotland will raise peak fares such as a season and Anytime tickets in January by 2.5 per cent - the current Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation rate.
Off-peak fares, such as cheap day returns, will remain unchanged.
This contrasts with an average 3.5 per cent fare increase in England and Wales, including cross-Border operators East Coast, Virgin Trains, CrossCountry and First Transpennine Express.
This will affect passengers travelling with them between Scotland and destinations such as London and Birmingham.
The English operators will also be permitted to increase some fares by up to 5.5 per cent so long as their overall rise remains at 3.5 per cent.
The annual fares increases are calculated using an established formula based on July’s RPI inflation figure, which was announced today by the Office for National Statistics.
Watchdog Passenger Focus said it hoped the UK Government would step in to cap the increase to the inflation rate, as it did last year.
The Scottish Government, which is in charge of the ScotRail franchise, has decided to peg fares to encourage more train travel, which is already at record levels of some 85 million journeys a year.
A ScotRail spokeswoman said, “Fares for four in 10 journeys will be frozen in Scotland.
“There will be no rise for off peak fares in January.
“Peak-time increases will be limited to inflation, 1 per cent below similar fares south of the Border.
“This means that, overall, our fare increases will be below inflation at a time when energy and fuel costs are rising much faster than RPI.”
The Scottish Government said the fares caps would continue into the next ScotRail franchise, which starts in April.
Its spokeswoman said: “We are committed to ensuring rail fares are affordable across Scotland for all - for fare-payers and for taxpayers.
“That is why we have capped regulated ScotRail fares increases in the next franchise period at the level of the RPI and off-peak regulated fares increases will be capped at 1 per cent below RPI.”