ScotRail: First Minister John Swinney to extend the abolition of peak rail fares

The new First Minister is expecting to announce an extension to the abolition of rail fares at an event in Edinburgh Waverley

Peak rail fares are to be scrapped for a further three months.

A pilot to scrap peak rail fares was first introduced in October last year as part of the power-sharing deal between the SNP and the Greens. The six-month pilot was extended until the end of July, but there were concerns peak fares would then return.

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However, First Minister John Swinney has now confirmed he has extended the abolition of peak rail fares for a further three months.

The First Minister confirmed the extension during a visit to a Fife Expo at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station on Thursday, part of the Levenmouth rail link opening celebrations.

The price cut means rush-hour commutes between Glasgow and Edinburgh are reduced in cost by almost half, from £28.90 to around £14.90.

Prior to the announcement, Mr Swinney said the pilot scheme had been “very effective”, but that “everything would have to be paid for” when asked if it could be extended.

A total of £15 million was allocated to fund the six month pilot in the Government’s 2023/24 budget, followed by an extra £15m in the 2024/25 budget to cover the three-month extension. This new three-month extension is expected to cost an extra £10m.

Confirming the extension, Mr Swinney said: “The Scottish Government’s ambition to enhance our railways and make public transport easier and more affordable is clear.

“We know new rail investment can create real education, business and tourism opportunities and help breathe life into communities. This is currently most apparent with the soon-to-open £116 million Levenmouth rail link.

“Bold initiatives such as our ScotRail Peak Fares Removal pilot help build on this investment by encouraging more people to switch from car and opt to use the train. By extending this pilot for a further three months, we can better understand its impacts in terms of encouraging people to choose rail.”

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A spokesperson for Transport Scotland said: “The final cost of the pilot will be determined by any changes in patronage, but ScotRail’s current cost estimates are in line with the funding available.”

Trade unions warned scrapping the trial would have an unfair impact on workers, as regular fares were increased by 8.7 per cent last month. If peak fares returned, this would have taken the price of a ticket from Glasgow to Edinburgh from £16.20 to £31.40.

The Scottish Greens say Mr Swinney needs to go even further and scrap peak fares permanently.

Mark Ruskell, the party’s transport spokesman, said: “The Scottish Greens fought tooth and nail to persuade the government and Transport Scotland to scrap peak rail fares and their response was to first pilot the changes, which has now proven popular with passengers and unions alike.

“Given they are now embedded in people’s daily routine, and are helping to tackle both the cost-of-living and climate crises, it would be a spectacular own goal if Mr Swinney and the SNP were to bring back what is in effect a commuter tax. The change must become permanent.

“In particular the Government must listen to the unions, who have been magnificent in their approach to welcoming this new people-focused approach. This extended pilot must surely signal the end of the line for peak fares in Scotland and, as with free bus journeys for under-22s also delivered by the Scottish Greens, help transform Scotland’s transport fortunes for all.”


The decision to extend the freeze on peak fares by another three months will be welcome news across Scotland, particularly for those making day trips to the Edinburgh festivals over the summer.

But this is only a halfway house - yes, it means trains are more affordable for another three months, but it also doesn’t commit to scrapping peak fares completely.

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It just kicks the can down the road for another few months by neither ending the pilot scheme or making it permanent.

One thing it does do is give the new First Minister John Swinney and Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes a bit of breathing space.

They’ve only just come into the top jobs and this is an easy win for the pair, while also giving them time to consider the financial implications of it (because this decision is not cheap - £30m has already been allocated for the pilot, and today’s announcement is estimated to cost a further £10m).

Perhaps this is a cynical way to look at it as well, but a general election could be called any day now and the SNP might struggle to remain the largest party in Scotland.

Something like this, which is putting money directly into people’s pockets, will surely look good on a campaign leaflet.



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