Scrap peak train fares and offer free rail travel, union urges

ASLEF said reforming fares would contribute to meeting net-zero targets and help Scots during the cost of living crisis.

Scrap peak rail fares and offer free travel to young and old, ASLEF urges Scottish Government iStock

The Scottish Government is being urged to get rid of peak train fairs and offer free travel to people over 60 and under 24.

It comes ahead of the announcement of the Government’s Budget Bill next week.

Deputy first minister John Swinney will outline tax and spending plans for the next financial year amid rising inflation and prices, as well as public sector pay negotiations.

In a letter to Swinney and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, train drivers’ union ASLEF said reforming fares on Scotland’s railways would contribute to meeting net-zero targets and help Scots during the cost of living crisis.

Currently, a peak return fare on a ScotRail train between Glasgow and Edinburgh is £27.60, while an off-peak return is £14.20 between the same two stations – nearly 50% cheaper.

This week, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), said Scotland has missed seven of its 11 net-zero targets to date and there was “no clear plan of delivery” that would see 75% of emissions cut by 2030.

In his letter, ASLEF Scottish organiser Kevin Lindsay said: “With this in mind, we would urge you in this budget to help increase rail travel by abolishing peak fares, which we see as another tax on workers, and also to make rail travel free for the under-24s and over-60s.

“By directly intervening in this way, your Government can help the travelling public break from the bad habit of unhealthy and environmentally damaging road travel and get into the good habit of environmentally sustainable rail travel.

“Moreover, such a policy will hugely help people who are struggling in the face of a very harmful cost of living crisis.

“If the Scottish Government is serious about meeting its climate change targets, these policies are the very least the Government should be doing.

“We urge you to take heed of our call, set against the context of the very serious assessment this week from the CCC, and end peak fares and introduce free travel for under-24s and over-60s.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Spending decisions covering the next financial year will be taken following publication of the Scottish Budget 2023-24 on December 15.

”Transport Scotland are progressing the Fair Fares Review to ensure a sustainable and integrated approach to fares that supports the long term viability of our public transport system as we recover from the pandemic. 

“The Review is considering both the cost and availability of services and the range of discounts and concessionary schemes which are available on all modes including bus, rail and ferry. It will develop and assess options to create a fairer, more transparent system of fares across all modes that maintain and increase affordability for those who need it most.  

“By investing over half a billion pounds in long term funding for bus priority infrastructure, coupled with the roll out of free bus travel to under 22s and significant investment to encourage a shift to zero emission buses, we’re responding to the climate emergency by placing buses at the front of our just transition to a net zero society – supporting our world leading commitment to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030.

“These are just some examples of the generous concessionary travel schemes that exist in Scotland. Scotland has a fixed budget and Ministers have already set out in the emergency budget some of the challenges this brings.

“We are broadly supportive of a different approach to peak fares and we will consult on this through the review, which we hope ASLEF will take part in.

“One of the main barriers in encouraging people back onto public transport and reducing our emissions is the intransigence of the UK Government over the RMT/Network Rail dispute, we would urge them to think again.”

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