ScotRail: Date for suspension of peak train fares across Scotland confirmed

The start date for the suspension of peak fares on all ScotRail services has now been confirmed

Passengers will be able to travel on all ScotRail services at off-peak ticket prices regardless of the time of day for travel from next month, as the Scottish Government confirmed the start date for a six-month trial period.

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The pilot has been earmarked to run until March 29 next year.

The dates were confirmed in an update made to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, after the transport commitment was laid out in this month's Programme for Government.

Under the pilot, peak hour fares on some routes are expected to be halved, with an Edinburgh to Glasgow day return reduced from £28.90 to £14.90. All off-peak fares and products set and controlled by ScotRail will be valid for travel all day.

Transport minister Fiona Hyslop said of the date announcement: “The Programme for Government makes clear our commitment to encourage a shift towards sustainable transport. We know that there is much to be done in encouraging people back to rail if we are to achieve our net zero targets.

“This peak fare removal pilot is aimed at achieving this by making ticketing simpler with off-peak fares valid all day. This is an exciting and unique opportunity to encourage more people to choose a safe, reliable, and greener form of public transport.”

The peak fares suspension could cost twice as much as has been budgeted if it does not lead to a large increase in passengers, The Scotsman revealed in July.

Transport Scotland is providing £15 million to fund the trial, but Scottish Rail Holdings (SRH), which oversees ScotRail for the Scottish Government agency, has warned the move could be "significantly more expensive than politically expected".

SRH has estimated the six-month experiment could cost more than £30m if it generates only a small increase in passengers.

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The minutes of a March SRH board meeting stated: "The difference between peak and off-peak average yields for the peak journey volumes is equivalent to more than £60m per annum.” Transport Scotland has criticised that as "unhelpful speculation".

Alex Hynes, Scotland’s Railway managing director, said: “This is a hugely exciting opportunity for Scotland’s Railway to encourage more people across the country to choose rail travel instead of using the car.

“Everyone at ScotRail is working hard to make sure that this six-month trial will be a success, and we will be monitoring our services and stations daily to see where we have any significant increases in customer journeys.

“We know that cost and simplicity is a critical factor for people when they choose how to travel, and we are looking forward to delivering this fantastic fare reduction for our customers.”

Ministers have already pumped hundreds of millions of extra pounds into ScotRail to keep trains running through the pandemic when revenue fell to a low of just 8 per cent of normal levels when people were discouraged from taking public transport. It effectively doubled annual support to £1 billion.

Paul White, director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents bus operators, tweeted: "Rail fares are already subsidised by government. What impact on bus services?

"People between 22-60 are the only bus fare payers and they're now incentivised to switch to rail. We're shuffling people between sustainable modes rather than improving accessibility and driving modal shift."



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