‘Rip off’ rail fares condemned as ticket prices increase 2.8%
The introduction of a 2.8% increase in average train fares in Scotland has been criticised amid falling performance levels.
From Wednesday, peak-time season tickets and anytime day tickets in Scotland are rising by 3.2%, while the capped increase of off-peak fares is 2.2%.
ScotRail said the price hike is below the UK average of 3.1% and comes as the operator invests “millions of pounds to build the best railway Scotland has ever had”.
But the rise comes at a challenging time for the train operator as cancellations throughout November and December breached required performance targets, prompting the Scottish Government to demand ScotRail publishes a plan on how it will improve.
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “While any fare increase is unwelcome, calls for a fares freeze underestimate the impact of these on the public purse. The average fares increases in Scotland (2.8%) are lower than England and Wales (3.1%).
“Two-thirds of the cost of running the railway is already met through Scottish Government subsidy, with the remainder through rail passenger revenues. Any change to rail fares could therefore have a significant impact on the taxpayer.
“ScotRail accept that their performance has not been good enough recently, and the issue of a remedial notice demonstrates ministers have made clear the need for robust improvement.
“Underlying reasons, such as late delivery of rolling stock impacting on staff training and the now resolved industrial action, are already well-documented. While some are resolved and staff recruitment is ongoing, it is clear further action is required to address this immediately.
“Many delays are due to infrastructure issues which are the responsibility Network Rail, which remains the responsibility of the UK Government. Devolution of Network Rail’s activities to Scotland would allow us to take further action to improve services.”
Branding the increase a “rip off”, Scottish Labour transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: “Commuters are now being forced to pay more for train services which are plagued by delays, cancellations and overcrowding.
“Thousands of working people may now be priced out from travelling on Scotland’s railways alongside their children with the Kids Go Free also now scrapped.
“Across the country this fare rise will cripple commuters, with annual season tickets on some routes now costing well in excess of £4,000.
“It’s high time working people stopped having to pay such excessive fares to simply line the pockets of private companies.”
Rail fare increases across Britain were announced by industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), and are regulated by the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments.
Scottish Greens transport spokesman John Finnie said: “It’s wrong to ask rail passengers to pay a significantly increased fare for a poor service as too often we suffer delayed, cancelled and overcrowded trains.
“Rail commuters will continue to be treated as an afterthought while the Scottish Government’s transport spending remains focused on new roads.
“It’s disappointing that SNP MSPs joined with Tories to reject the call to speed up the process of bringing about a public sector bid for the ScotRail franchise. Public ownership of this public service can’t come soon enough.”
A ScotRail spokesman said: “Eighty-five per cent of our revenue comes from fares set by the Scottish Government, which decides how much our customers pay.
“We are investing millions of pounds to build the best railway Scotland has ever had.”