Calls for free train travel for young and old under nationalised ScotRail

Transport unions said journeys should be free to under-24s and over-60s when the rail firm is taken into public ownership.

Calls for free train travel for young and old under nationalised ScotRail iStock

Train travel should be free to under-24s and over-60s when ScotRail is taken into public ownership, Scotland’s transport unions have said.

The ScotRail franchise is being stripped from Dutch firm Abellio in March, three years before the contract was due to end, with the Scottish Government taking over as the operator of last resort.

The Aslef, RMT, TSSA and Unite unions have launched a joint report on a “vision for Scotland’s railways” with recommendations for the publicly owned service and a longer-term strategy.

The four unions want a subsidised railway that is publicly operated on a permanent basis with “trains that are clean, green and attractive”.

A government-run ScotRail should also cut ticket prices, abolish peak time fares and allow people under 24 and over 60 to travel on trains for free, similar to buses, they said.

The report calls for round-the clock services to be considered to support the night-time and early morning economy as well as increasing the number of staff in stations and ticket offices and ending driver-only trains to “ensure every train has at least one safety-critical guard on board”.

The unions argue for the railway network to be democratically run, with union and political representation on the board in addition to passenger representatives.

It also sets out plans for the railway to be “part of a wider integrated public transport system with through ticketing” to allow passengers to travel on trains, buses and trams with a single ticket.

A joint statement from the unions said: “This report brings the four rail unions together to speak with one voice setting out our vision of a railway based on quality, sustainability and excellence.

“The end of the disastrous Abellio franchise gives us the opportunity to start afresh with a railway that meets the needs of all our people whilst valuing the key workers who deliver services.

“This report is our vision of a railway run in the interest of people and communities, not profit.

“It is the basis for building a world-class rail system that all of Scotland can be proud of. We have a great opportunity, we should grab it with both hands.”

Speaking at the report’s launch outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, the general secretary of the RMT union, Mick Lynch, told the PA news agency: “I think we need to do something different because privatisation and the the franchise model has been an absolute disaster.

“Taxpayers have actually spent millions and millions of pounds and that has been wasted on a franchising model that is well and truly broken.

“Hopefully, from April, when we have the operator of a last resort, there’s going to be a different approach to Scotland’s railway, a greener and cleaner railway, a safer railway and a more reliable railway.”

Kevin Lindsay, Aslef’s Scotland organiser, said he wanted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and transport minister Graeme Dey to “listen to the unions and listen to rail workers about our vision for Scotland’s railway”.

“Our vision is a cleaner railway, a greener railway, a cheaper railway and a railway that is safe, affordable and works for the people of Scotland,” he said.

“This is a starting point, it’s our blueprint. If other people have got ideas, we welcome that, but we want to see a railway which delivers for the people of Scotland.

“We also need to stop the cuts – we don’t need 300 trains a day being removed from the service, we need 300 trains more in service for the railway and for the people of Scotland.”

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