SCOTRAIL passengers will see fares increase by 3.9 per cent from January.
• Season tickets to rise by less than 4 per cent whilst cross-border train companies including CrossCountry and Virgin are seeing rises of 4.1 and 4.2 per cent respectively
• ScotRail fare increases are based on an established formula of 1 per cent above inflation in July
The rise has been cut from the expected 4.2 per cent and will be the first time Scotland’s main train operator has not raised ticket prices by the maximum permitted amount.
It would mean Edinburgh-Glasgow anytime (peak) day return fares increasing by around 80p to some £21.80 and off-peak returns going up by about 50p to £12.60.
The move, which is expected to be announced within days, would also see ScotRail increasing fares by less than other rail firms across Britain.
Cross-Border operators plan average 4.2 per cent increases for many tickets.
The 4.2 per cent rise is based on an established formula of 1 per cent above the inflation rate in July, which is set by ministers.
ScotRail’s reduced increase emerged following research by rail watchdogs which showed that some of ScotRail’s season tickets - the only new ticket prices already available - will rise by a maximum of 3.9% per cent.
Passenger Focus found some examples of higher season ticket increases among cross-Border train operators, with up to 4.1 per cent for CrossCountry, 4.2 per cent for Virgin Trains and 4.4 per cent for East Coast.
In Kent, some season tickets will rise by as much as 6.46 per cent.
Industry sources said: “It is understood that ScotRail fares will rise by less than the 4.2 per cent average being quoted across the UK.”
Passenger Focus said its research showed some train operators - like ScotRail - were increasing season ticket prices by less than the maximum permitted 4.2 per cent and it would applaud similar moves with other fares.
Chief executive Anthony Smith said: “Anything which reduces the burden on already hard-pressed passengers is to be welcomed.
“We encourage government and operators to work together to drive down the cost for fare payers.
“The new prices for off-peak and other fares should be available early in December – it will then be clear if the apparent restraint shown on season-ticket levels has fed through to other ticket types.”
The Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency, which is responsible for the ScotRail franchise, has already committed to retaining the current inflation + 1 per cent formula for annual fare increases during the next franchise, which is due to run for ten years from 2014.
By contrast, the UK Government has twice proposed increasing the formula to inflation + 3 per cent so that passengers pay more towards running the railways, only to back down in the face of political and commuter pressure.
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “We are determined to keep fares down and have capped increases at inflation + 1 per cent for the rest of the ScotRail franchise.
“We have already confirmed that there will be no fare increases beyond the RPI +1 per cent formula introduced in the next franchise and we are developing a package which could lead to significant fares’ reductions, particularly in respect of off-peak.”
ScotRail’s fares have increased by 6 per cent in each of the last two years but were cut by 0.4 per cent in 2010 following negative inflation rates. Over the rest of the last decade, the annual increase has ranged from 1 to 6 per cent.
A ScotRail spokesman said: “We will announce our new fares in the near future.”
A spokesman for East Coast, which operates trains between Scotland and London the east coast main line, said: “We aren’t able to provide details of fare increases at the moment.
“We expect to be able to make an announcement in the middle of next week.”