Scottish commuters face 4.2% rail fare hike in the new year as unions attack ‘bonkers’ rise

CASH-strapped rail travellers face further financial hardship, with fares in Scotland set to rise by more than 4 per cent in the new year.

CASH-strapped rail travellers face further financial hardship, with fares in Scotland set to rise by more than 4 per cent in the new year.

RMT stages protests at stations across the country

ScotRail defends latest rise in fares

Regulated train fares north of the Border will increase by 4.2 per cent on 1 January, 2013 – one percentage point above the inflation rate – while cross-Border fares will rise by 6.2 per cent.

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Regulated train fares in Scotland include season tickets, fares in Strathclyde, off-peak returns, anytime day returns where there is no off-peak return, and anytime day returns within the Edinburgh “basket area” (bounded by Falkirk High, Bathgate, Fauldhouse, Newcraighall, North Berwick and Kirkcaldy).

The increase will see an annual season ticket between Edinburgh and Glasgow rising from £3,380 to £3,524

Unions, transport campaigners and rail passenger groups staged a day of action at railway stations across the country yesterday, including at Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central, to protest against the fares hike.

The RMT union described the increase as “bonkers” and said the increases come at a time of staff and service cuts, and officials insist the extra money will go into the pockets of private shareholders rather than on improving services.

Mick Hogg, Scottish regional organiser for the RMT union, said: “Higher fares mean bigger profits for the private companies, staff and service cuts, the closure of ticket offices, cuts to terms and conditions, and potential job losses.

“What we want to see in an ideal world is the renationalisation of the railways, because we don’t see any sense in this madness.

“It’s absolutely bonkers as far as we are concerned, particularly with the austerity cuts that are taking place, poverty and people facing job losses.”

The rise was calculated through the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation in July, which stood at 3.2 per cent and is used to determine how much regulated rail fares, including season and saver tickets, are allowed to increase in 2013.

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Scottish prices are going up by RPI plus 1 per cent, while some increases south of the Border are set at RPI plus 3 per cent.

All other fares are unregulated and are a commercial matter for ScotRail.

Donald MacPhee, chairman of passenger campaign group Railfuture Scotland, said he was not surprised at the increase.

“People will complain about the rail companies, but the fares are set by the Scottish Government. There is already an inbuilt discrimination against passengers due to the very complicated way the system is organised. The system is very fragmented, meaning every interface costs you money.”

The Scottish government is responsible for setting rail strategy north of the Border.

Transport minister Keith Brown said: “We are determined to keep fares down and have capped increases at inflation plus 1 per cent for the rest of the ScotRail franchise, in contrast to the 3 per cent above inflation increase in the rest of the UK.

“Setting a rail strategy for Scotland is a matter for Scottish ministers and the fares changes announced today continue

to show the benefit of having that decision made in Scotland for Scotland’s passengers. In

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addition to our recent £5 billion package of improvements for the network, almost 75 per cent of the cost of a ticket is

paid through government subsidies.

“Increasing rail travel is vital to this Scottish Government’s key objectives of supporting economic growth, protecting the environment and improving links between Scottish communities and their access to employment opportunities.”

He said he had already confirmed there will be no fare increases beyond the RPI plus 1 per cent formula introduced in the next franchise.

Mr Brown said he was developing a package which could lead to significant fare reductions, particularly in respect of off-peak travel. He added: “We want to see the trend of the substantial shift from road to rail – which has resulted in more than 81 million passengers travelling on ScotRail services this year – continue, and better trains, stations and services will play a major part in that.

“Certainly, if the UK government continues to levy VAT and fuel duty at the current rate, then it makes travel more expensive for the public.”

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: “What is important is the unions work with the operators to ensure further rises are not incurred.

“There have been many threats of industrial action over various issues in recent years, but we now need the unions to try and squeeze unnecessary future costs out.

“If people are being asked to spend more money on fares, they expect to see a higher quality of service.”

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A spokesman for ScotRail said no decision had been taken on the price of unregulated fares from January.

“Our strategy will continue to aim to strike the right balance between the current economic climate and market demand,”

he said.