‘Rip-off’ row over cheap fare deals

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THE Government faces calls to investigate all of Scotland’s major rail firms after operators admitted not selling their usual cheapest fares on the most popular Christmas travel days - prompting accusations of “rip-offs and profiteering.”

East Coast, Virgin Trains and CrossCountry – which operate from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen – are among five UK firms admitting putting fewer or none of the usual cheapest advance fares on sale for many services on busier days, such as Thursday until Christmas Eve and December 27.

ScotRail suggested cheaper fares were “less likely” to have been made available for busy days.

Firms admitted not selling their cheapest fares for trains they knew would be busy as passengers visit loved ones. A UK-wide total of more than 20 million passengers will travel over the Christmas period.

Rail industry experts said firms were “exploiting” passengers and called on MPs’ Transport Select Committee to investigate.

East Coast suspended advertising of its usual cheapest fares, which include 12,400 £17 tickets between Edinburgh and London every week. Higher-priced advance ticket prices on the route include £29, £38, £49 and £59.

Last-minute bookers will find only single tickets costing £84 to £119 available. The Christmas row is a fresh blow to passengers ahead of January fare hikes up to 10 per cent and the £49million taxpayers’ bill for the Department for Transport botching the west coast line bidding process.

Firms said their cheapest fares had been made available for quieter times over the Christmas period - but refused to reveal the number of these tickets put on sale, claiming the information was “commercially sensitive.”