Calls to slash rail prices in bid to get Scots to ditch cars

The Scottish Liberal Democrats want railcards to be opened up to all travellers, taking a third off ticket prices.

Calls to slash rail prices in bid to get Scots to ditch cars iStock
Trains: Lib Dems call for all Scots to be eligible for railcards in bid to slash train ticket costs.

The Scottish Government has been urged to slash the costs of rail travel in a bid to get Scots to ditch their cars in order to reduce emissions.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats want to see railcards opened up to all travellers, which would take a third off the cost of a train ticket. 

Those already entitled to a card would see the cost of rail journeys slashed in half under the proposals by the party, which are built on a model already in operation in London and the south east of England. 

It comes as Abellio ScotRail’s contract comes to an end in March, with the franchise set to be nationalised under the Scottish Government. 

In December, ScotRail announced passengers would be hit by the largest fare rises in nearly a decade.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the Scottish Government’s commitment to decarbonisation cannot be taken “seriously” when rail prices continue to rise year on year. 

Cole-Hamilton said: “It’s hard to take the Scottish Government’s commitment to decarbonisation seriously when the most environmentally friendly form of mass transportation ticks up in price year-after-year.

“Scotland’s transport emissions are stubbornly high. They are unchanged since the 1990s. One way we can tackle that is getting people out of private cars, off internal flights and on to our railways. But that won’t happen if the costs don’t add up.

“That’s why I want to see railcards opened up to everyone, built on the model that already exists throughout London and the south east. It would mean you can get a third off the cost of a ticket on most journeys, with the discount rising to 50% for those already entitled to a railcard.

“I also want the government to up its efforts to open or reopen routes to communities who are crying out for them. That’s a serious, ambitious and credible proposals for boosting rail travel. It would be good for our environment and good for our economy too. 

“From proposals to make all new public sector vehicles electric to ending support for Heathrow airport expansion, under my leadership it is Scottish Liberal Democrats who are showing real leadership when it comes to the climate emergency, not the stodgy and slow-paced SNP/Green coalition.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We are always keen to explore new ways to attract passengers onto rail services however initiatives such as this railcard would require significant funding to make them viable.

“As we have said many times recently, we are focused on getting rail back on to a sustainable financial footing. Only then can we start to consider such railcards or similar promotions.”

Lesley Kane, ScotRail commercial director, said: “Coronavirus has changed our railway fundamentally. We are working hard on plans to develop new ticket types, better technology, and different services to meet customer demand and attract as many people back to the railway as possible in the coming months.  

“It’s crucial we attract people to choose the train as the low-carbon alternative in the coming months and years.”