ScotRail could woo passengers back with tickets that cost less the more you travel

Innovative discounts to attract passengers onto trains post-lockdown are being investigated by Scotland’s main operator.

One new ticket option could be progressive discounts on the same journey. Picture: John Devlin

ScotRail is exploring a potential new range of fares that could include passengers paying progressively less for their tickets the more times they make the same journey.

Another option being test marketed is discounts for pre-paid multiple tickets for the same route.

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The research comes as ScotRail seeks ways of attracting passengers back after the number of those travelling plunged to just 10 per cent of normal because of Covid travel restrictions.

Discounts could be offered for pre-payment of multiple tickets on the same route. Picture: John Devlin

There is an acute awareness in the industry of the need to increase revenue after annual Scottish Government support for its ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper franchises nearly doubled because of the pandemic to nearly £1 billion.

Rail chiefs are looking at potential radical changes if mass commuting is replaced by many people continuing to work from home.

Prior to the latest lockdown, Saturdays became ScotRail’s busiest day, and leisure travel is seen as a promising growth area when season tickets sales have already been falling because fewer staff travel to work five days a week.

An insight into ScotRail’s thinking has emerged in a poll sent to 7,000 members of its online customer panel The Platform.

They were asked to comment on options such as “a progressive discount which saves you more each time you travel, meaning you save without needing to pay an up-front cost, with the discount being eventually capped and reset after a period”.

Participants were asked to choose a “fair maximum discount cap that could be offered to our passengers” of between 5 and 30 per cent.

Another option was “a guaranteed discount on multiple journeys but requires the cost up front to take advantage of the saving”.

A ScotRail spokesperson said: “We are always looking at ways of generating revenue through innovative types of ticket offers.

“This is especially important at this very difficult time, when we have seen a 90 per cent reduction in passenger numbers, resulting in a massive decrease in revenue.

“We are currently carrying out market research and testing with customer groups, which will allow us to consider if any new or adapted ticket schemes will be trialled with our customers in the near future.”

Passenger watchdog Transport Focus applauded the move.

Senior stakeholder manager Robert Samson said: “We speak to thousands of passengers a year and know value for money is a top priority.

"It’s good to see ScotRail considering measures to address this.

"Getting it right will play a big part in attracting passengers back when restrictions have eased.”

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A spokesperson for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency, which would need to approve any new tickets, said: “It is clear the pandemic has had a huge impact on passenger numbers, and with that revenue.

"That is why we have already provided £231.5m in additional financial support between March to September to both our rail franchisees

“We welcome the work ScotRail is undertaking to attract passengers back and attract new customers by improving the ticket types available.

Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions for the Rail Delivery Group industry umbrella body, said: “The pandemic has been rocket fuel to changing travel patterns, and as we emerge from lockdown people will want new types of fare that work for their new habits.”

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