ScotRail fare increases to be lowest in Britain

Passengers on Scotland’s main train operator will see ticket prices going up by up to 2 per cent less than on other rail firms.
ScotRail's off-peak fares will again go up by less than those of other train operators. Picture: John DevlinScotRail's off-peak fares will again go up by less than those of other train operators. Picture: John Devlin
ScotRail's off-peak fares will again go up by less than those of other train operators. Picture: John Devlin

Peak fares will increase by 1.6 per cent and off-peak tickets by 0.6 per cent from March, compared to a 2.6 per cent price rise on cross-Border and other operators.

The increases have been postponed from tomorrow until March across Britain.

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Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Plans are in place to defer the implementation of the annual inflation-related increase of Scottish fares.

"This will see off-peak fares increasing by 0.6 per cent and peak fares increase by 1.6 per cent on March 1.

"We have taken action to keep fares down and ScotRail fare are still on average 20 per cent cheaper than those across the rest of Britain.”

The news came as analysis by The Scotsman showed Scottish taxpayer support for ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper in the face of an 80 per reduction in passengers because of the pandemic is approaching £1 billion.

Annual subsidies to the Scottish Government-controlled franchises of £520.1 million have had to be supplemented by three extra emergency payments totalling £461.5m, bringing total support for 2020-21 to £981.6m.

The latest of the three emergency measures agreements, of £108m for January to March, was announced by Mr Matheson along with the fare increases.

The others were for £250m and £103.5m.

Mr Matheson said: “To support rail services through a period of economic recovery, we have extended the financial assistance for the ScotRail and Caledonian Sleeper franchises.

“Given the extremely challenging budgetary position and the current uncertainty as to future consequential funding from the UK Government in 2021-22, the agreements will be in place until March.

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"This will provide staff and suppliers of Abellio ScotRail and Serco Caledonian Sleeper with reassurance during this period.”

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Professor Iain Docherty, Scotland’s leading transport academic and Dean of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Stirling, said the scale of extra funding was causing major worry.

Prof Docherty is investigating the impact of the pandemic on the transport sector with colleagues at the University of Leeds.

He said "There is widespread concern across the rail industry about its financial sustainability.

"Given the depth and length of the reduction in passenger demand, minds are turning to the radical reform that might be necessary to substantially reduce operating costs, especially given the requirement to invest substantially in decarbonisation.”

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: “The level of subsidy seems staggering but it is necessary to keep the trains running when passenger numbers are understandably much reduced.”

“Fares need to be kept low and I think there needs to be a lot more flexibility for train companies around that.

"Annual increases infuriate people and seem hard to justify at this time.”

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Colin Smyth, his Scottish Labour counterpart, said, “Scotland’s taxpayers and rail passengers are being hit by a triple whammy.

"While subsidies to the big rail firms are going up, so too are fares but services are being axed.

"People are rightly asking why the SNP still refuse to listen to Labour, our transport unions and passengers and bring our railways under public ownership and control but instead prop up the private rail companies with more and more taxpayers’ money."

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