Abellio to keep ScotRail’s free first class secret

A SECRET perk enjoyed by passengers in the know is to be retained by new ScotRail operator Abellio – travelling first-class at no extra cost.

A crowded Edinburgh to Glasgow service. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The little-known quirk is because some trains with first-class seats run on routes where first-class tickets are not available, so anyone can sit on them.

It has even led to commuter trains being crammed with passengers while their first-class compartments remain empty.

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ScotRail only offers first-class on its inter-city routes – the main line between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and between Aberdeen and Inverness.

However, some of those diesel-powered trains also operate on suburban routes, for which only standard-class tickets can be bought.

They include between Edinburgh and Glasgow and both Dunblane and Fife.

That means passengers lucky enough to find themselves on such trains can avail themselves of the “extra space and comfort for luxurious travel”, as ScotRail describes its first class.

The seats also have plug sockets for recharging mobile phones and laptops, which are currently available to standard-class passengers only on ScotRail’s newest fleet of electric trains.

However, such passengers won’t get free snack and hot drinks on board, or access to first-class lounges at stations.

Abellio, which took over ScotRail on Wednesday, said: “There is no change from what is there just now.”

ScotRail’s first-class tickets cost significantly more than standard class. On the Edinburgh-Glasgow route, they are 70 per cent more expensive at peak times – £39.90 return compared to £23.10.

One commuter who travels on a Glasgow-Fife train said it was a closely guarded secret.

He said: “It’s been some time since I overheard a fellow passenger state, ‘You can use first class on this service with any ticket’.

“True enough, periodically on the Queen Street to Markinch 5:23pm evening peak service, the train has carriages providing first class to the front and rear.

“I certainly don’t repeat this secret knowledge, as the odd time the train is full, other passengers squeeze into standard, still thinking first class is inaccessible with a standard ticket.

“So best to keep quiet and simply enjoy the short trip home in style.”

Other commuters to enjoy a first-class ride include those on a morning rush-hour train, on the Fife Circle into Edinburgh.

However, some ScotRail officials seemed unaware that the trains with first-class seats – known as Express class 170s – routinely operated on such lines.

A spokeswoman initially said: “Express 170s are not usually on the suburban routes, but may occasionally run on these routes due to disruption.”

But she later added: “On a small number of occasions, Express 170s will run on non-Express routes, and the morning peak Fife Circle service is one of these instances. This practice has been in place for decades to ensure we use the available rolling stock as efficiently as possible.”