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Government must rule out high rail fare rises, says Labour

Price rises are capped at the same rate as the retail price index from the previous July (Jane Barlow/PA)
Price rises are capped at the same rate as the retail price index from the previous July (Jane Barlow/PA)

Scottish Labour has urged the Scottish Government to ensure travellers do not face “eye-watering” rail fare rises.

Under the grant agreement between the Scottish Government and the newly-nationalised ScotRail, fare rises – which take effect every January – are capped at the same rate as rises to the retail price index (RPI) from the previous July.

But inflation has caused the RPI to increase by almost 11.8%, meaning this could be passed on to ScotRail users.

Such a rise would result in the price of a peak return between Glasgow and Edinburgh rising to more than £30.

Scottish Labour transport spokesman Neil Bibby urged the Scottish Government to use the first fare review to show “what kind of a railway they want to run”.

“The last thing Scotland’s long-suffering rail passengers need is a record-breaking fare hikes next winter, at the very time people will be struggling to heat their homes,” he said.

“This year, the SNP nodded through the biggest increases in a decade during a cost-of-living crisis – they cannot make the same mistake again.

“If the SNP continue with their signature blend of chronic mismanagement and punitive fare hikes, it spells disaster for Scotland’s railways and our emissions targets.

“This will be the first fare rise since they took full control of ScotRail – they need to show what kind of a railway they want to run and rule out a rip-off rise.”

Glasgow Central Station – Scotland
Inflation rises could cause the price of a peak return between Glasgow and Edinburgh to jump to more than £30 (David Cheskin/PA)

Transport minister Jenny Gilruth announced earlier this year the Scottish Government would hold a “fair fares review” to assess ticket prices, which would report in 2023, although she told a Holyrood committee she would push officials to report sooner.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that rail fares are affordable for passengers and taxpayers across Scotland. That includes taking time to consider what future fares increases would look like – no decisions have been taken yet with regards to the RPI figure just announced.

“For a decade, the Scottish Government has kept fares increases down by ensuring they are in line with no more than RPI, with some fares on average up to 20% cheaper than the rest of Great Britain.

“We know how challenging the cost-of-living crisis is for people who need to use public transport right now, and are looking carefully at what more can be done to ensure that passengers can get the best value fare for their journey at all times.

“Public ownership of ScotRail means delivering a service which listens and responds to passenger need. We will continue to develop further initiatives with longer-term benefits that make rail a better choice as we work towards our ambitious net-zero targets.”