Threat to force ScotRail to reveal unfair fares

George Eckton at Garrowhill railway station. Picture: John Devlin
George Eckton at Garrowhill railway station. Picture: John Devlin
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ScotRail would be forced to highlight fare anomalies to ensure passengers are not overcharged for journeys under a campaign to be taken to the Scottish Parliament.

A former transport chief has lodged a petition that would require future operators to provide an app showing the lowest price option for a trip, including by splitting it into tickets for separate sections.

George Eckton was prompted to take action after he found buying one ticket for a journey between stations in Glasgow and Inverness could cost more than dividing the trip into several parts. ScotRail admitted the through fare was “higher than common sense” and has reduced it.

Eckton, former director of the South East of Scotland Transport Partnership coordinating body, said: “It was over £5 cheaper to have a split journey. It just didn’t seem right and I wondered whether there were other bigger anomalies.

“The issue of lack of awareness about splitting is increased if you don’t have access to a staffed station, who advise on splitting your journey to lower the cost.

“If fares were lower, it would encourage more people to take journeys on public transport.

“It seems the right thing to do for a public service, delivered by Scottish ministers, to tell the public the cheapest fare available.”

ScotRail told him that fares in the former Strathclyde region were “generally lower” than the rest of Scotland because they had been set by the then Strathclyde Passenger Transport, separately from the rest of the network, until 2004.

ScotRail’s head of revenue development Claire Dickie told him: “If a customer wishes to travel across the Strathclyde border, it may be cheaper to buy separate tickets.

“However, this may not be classed as an anomaly, in the purest sense of the term, as the tickets will most often have different terms and conditions.”

A ScotRail spokesperson said: “Historic pricing regimes meant customers had to navigate their way through a fares database to find the best deal. Working alongside Transport Scotland, we’re committed to tackling fare inconsistencies to ensure customers have easier access to best value rail fares.”

The Scottish Government agency said a “price promise” was introduced in 2015 to enable passengers to report anomalies and be refunded.

Its spokesperson said: “As far as possible, Transport Scotland has sought to identify and remove inconsistencies, and in doing so has invested a further £2 million to make fares fairer.

“In the short term, as we look to eradicate anomalies, we welcome feedback from passengers that helps identify these. In the longer term, the broken franchising system and the ways in which passenger services are delivered are under scrutiny from the ongoing UK Rail Review. Fares has been highlighted as an area for possible future reform.”