Higher fares and alcohol ban could be on the way for rail passengers

Rail passengers could pay more to travel on some routes and may end up standing for longer during journeys.

These are two of the issues being considered by Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland in a consultation on the future of rail services.

Both ScotRail’s contract for providing rail passenger services and the funding arrangements for Network Rail come to an end in 2014.

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The Rail2014 consultation also includes the possibility of banning travellers from drinking alcohol on all trains, as well as removing first-class sections from trains where overcrowding is a problem.

Transport minister Keith Brown urged people to “consider the issues which are important to them” and respond to the consultation.

He said: “Our ambition is to have a railway that offers value for money, ensures closer working and integration between Network Rail and the service operators and most importantly, has passenger interests at its heart.

“Our aim is to develop an efficient, passenger-focused railway which incorporates the best private sector attributes with the ethos of public service, and this consultation is a crucial part of our considerations.”

The consultation document also suggests raising fares on those routes which have benefited from improvement works, to help pay for these.

It states: “Fares need to be set at a level which will generate revenue to help pay for new rail enhancements. We are therefore considering whether those passengers receiving an enhanced service as a consequence of investment in that service should make a contribution through increased fares, rather than having all costs falling to the taxpayer.”

Under current franchise arrangements, passengers should have a “reasonable expectation” of getting a seat within 10 minutes of boarding a train, unless they are travelling between Glasgow Central and Paisley Gilmour Street.

But the consultation will look at whether consideration should be given to how many people can be carried on a train, as opposed to simply how long people may have to stand for.

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As a result it will look at “whether we should increase the time that passengers may have to stand”, with people urged to give their views on this.

The consultation also points out that trains with first-class carriages have fewer seats than trains which are all standard class.

It suggests: “On routes, and at times when overcrowding is an issue, there could be an argument to remove first-class services and provide additional capacity.”

Another proposal is to ban travellers from drinking alcohol on all trains in Scotland. The consultation argues that “one of the most distressing ways to spend a rail journey is to be subject to the bad behaviour of other passengers” and adds that “this can be fuelled by excessive drinking of alcohol”.

While drinking is already banned on some trains for major football and rugby games, it says “consideration is being given to whether there should be a ban on the consumption of alcohol on all trains in Scotland”.

Transform Scotland, which brings together rail and bus operators, as well as local councils, environmental bodies and business groups, said the focus must be on “improving the everyday passenger experience”.

Director Colin Howden said: “There have been substantial improvements over the past decade and we need to see this continue.”

Improvements such as wi-fi and a “high-quality passenger environment” on new electric trains are “critical” in attracting more people on to the railways.

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Mr Howden added: “Moving people out of their cars and onto trains is the best way that the taxpayer can get value for money for the substantial funds invested in the rail network. And we believe that some of these improvements can be made at low cost.”