Ministers must not delay plan to reduce rail fares, says Labour

Rail trade union Aslef has backed the calls for the pilot to be made permanent.

Ministers must not delay plan to reduce rail fares, says Labour PA Media

Scottish Labour has urged ministers to lay out a plan to cut rail fares before a pilot scheme scrapping peak prices comes to an end.

The much-praised proposal was due to end in March, but the Scottish Government extended it to the end of June.

A separate fair fares review, which was published last month, committed ministers to wait until after the pilot was complete to make a decision on “medium to longer term rail fares reform”.

But Scottish Labour transport spokesman Alex Rowley pushed for more urgent action.

“Peak fares are a tax on workers and scrapping them was absolutely the right thing to do, offering much-needed relief to commuters during the cost-of-living crisis,” he said.

“The move has been welcomed across the board: from trade unions, environmental campaigners and the general public, as well as having cross-party support across the Parliament.

“It is short-sighted to bring this to an end before the results have even been evaluated.

“Any progress made with this pilot will be for nothing if rail users are left with the double hit of returning peak fares and the 8.7% increase in rail fares.

“The SNP cannot leave rail passengers in the dark any longer – the Government must set out a real plan to reduce the cost of rail fares on a permanent basis and publish any information it holds about the success of this pilot.

“Politics is a matter of priorities and a more affordable and accessible public transport system can help decarbonise transport, move people out of cars and encourage active travel.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “For over a decade we’ve broadly kept fares comparatively lower on average than across the rest of Great Britain.

“Since ScotRail moved into public sector, we have added over 200 additional services each weekday, offering seven per cent more seats. Passenger numbers have increased by 75% from £46.7m in 2021-22 to around 82 million in 2023/24.

“We are committed to investing in public transport and through this latest budget we will provide more than £2.5bn to support it. This includes over £1.6bn to operate, maintain and improve Scotland’s railway, £430m in funding for concessionary travel and bus services, and £434m to operate and invest in our ferries.

“We recognise that any additional cost to travel is unwelcome especially during the current cost of living crisis.

“The ScotRail peak fares removal pilot has been extended for a further three months until June 28, this should help to ease the transition to the increased fares and provide further data to inform the final evaluation on the success of the pilot.

“Our aim for a publicly owned ScotRail is to make Scotland’s railway more attractive. That includes looking at ways in which greater flexibility in setting fare increases can best help those who might benefit most.

“When determining our future fares strategy, we will take account of the recommendations of the fair dares review, the final evaluation of the ScotRail peak fares removal pilot, and the wider economic position.”

Rail trade union Aslef has backed the calls for the pilot to be made permanent, with Scottish organiser Kevin Lindsay saying failure to do so would be a “hugely retrograde step”.

“Ending peak fares was absolutely the right thing to do, and the Scottish Government deserves credit for introducing the pilot. But, they must end peak fares permanently and we urge them to do so,” he added.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code