Labour calls for rail fares freeze to help ‘fed up’ ScotRail travellers

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Scottish Labour is calling on the Finance Secretary to include a freeze on rail fares north of the border in next week’s Holyrood Budget.

Richard Leonard demanded that the Scottish Government work with ScotRail bosses to prevent planned price hikes from kicking in on January 2.

The Scottish Labour leader insisted this was “the right thing to do” in the wake of “worsening” performance by the rail operator.

He made the plea ahead of Finance Secretary Derek Mackay unveiling his Budget for 2019-20 to Holyrood on December 12.

It was recently announced that ticket prices in Scotland are to rise by an average of 2.8% from January 2 –  below the average UK rise of 3.1%.

However the cost of peak-time season tickets and any-time day tickets is to go up by 3.2%.

This could see commuters between Milngavie and Edinburgh having to pay just over £4,730 for an annual pass, an increase of £146.69 on this year, Labour calculated.

The party’s analysis also showed a season ticket between Glasgow and Dundee could increase by £174.34 to more than £5,622.

Mr Leonard said: “I don’t want to hear excuses, I’m fed up with it, and the passengers who use the services are fed up as well.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard (Lesley Martin/PA)

Speaking to the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists’ Association in Edinburgh, he said: “We are calling for a ScotRail rail fares freeze from January.

“Passengers are being ripped off whilst the service is worsening, and instead of dealing with it the SNP voted with the Tories to keep the franchise going and it has granted ScotRail a licence to fail by moving the goalposts on performance.

“The Scottish Government has the power and Abellio has the money. It is the right thing to do and they should get on and do it.”

Earlier this month ScotRail bosses announced plans to scrap free rail travel for children from January.

The soon-to-be replaced benefit allows an adult to take one or two children for free on return journeys. ScotRail will charge £1 for each child from January, but it said the fare would be available on more services.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “While any fare increase is unwelcome, calls for a fares freeze underestimate the impact of these on the public purse. The average fares increases in Scotland (2.8%) are lower than England and Wales (3.1%).

“In Scotland, two-thirds of the cost of running the railway is already met through Government subsidy, with the remainder through rail passenger revenues. Any change to rail fares could therefore have a significant impact on the taxpayer.”

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