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by Kirsteen Paterson
18 March 2024
Scrap ScotRail peak fares for good to end 'unfair tax' on workers, Hyslop is urged

Image: Alamy

Scrap ScotRail peak fares for good to end 'unfair tax' on workers, Hyslop is urged

Peak fares must not return on ScotRail trains, trade unions and environmental groups have told the Scottish Government.

Scottish ministers temporarily removed the more expensive tier of tickets for rush hour services after the national rail franchise was brought back into public hands.

The pilot scheme, offering off-peak prices all day, was launched in October in a bid to woo workers back onto the rail network.

In December, the trial was extended by three months until the end of June.

Now major groups have urged transport secretary Fiona Hyslop to make it permanent, branding the higher-priced fares a "tax" on workers.

Trade unions Aslef, RMT, Unite, TSSA and the Scottish Trades Union Congress have linked up with environmental organisations Stop Climate Chaos, Transform Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland and the Just Transition Partnership to make the call.

In a letter to Hyslop, they state: "If you were to restore peak fares it would be a retrograde step that would send exactly the wrong message at the wrong time.

"We urge you to do the right thing, scrap peak fares permanently to help Scotland meet its climate targets, grow the economy sustainably and help workers by ending this unfair tax on them."

Jim Baxter, of train drivers union Aslef, said: "We were delighted when the government listened to us and introduced a pilot to scrap peak fares. This has helped rail passengers and also helped increase the numbers of people using our trains after the shock the rail industry suffered because of the Covid pandemic.

"Ending the pilot and restoring peak fares would be a retrograde step of historic proportions and send the wrong signal at exactly the wrong time."

Mike Robinson of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland said: "If we are serious about tackling the climate crisis, along with reducing inequality and improving health and wellbeing, it's a no-brainer that using public transport should be cheaper than driving. But over recent decades, public transport fares have risen while car use has become cheaper in real terms.

"We warmly welcomed the pilot scheme to remove peak train fares, which signalled a positive step towards rebalancing costs in favour of public transport. Reverting to expensive tickets would be a hugely retrograde decision and be bad news for workers, passengers and the climate."

A Transport Scotland spokesman said the extension of the trial will all more data collection on travel patterns to "inform the final evaluation".

He went on: "The Scottish Government will carefully consider the impact of the pilot and the long-term sustainability of such a proposition before committing to any further measures after June 2024. 

"This trial is an exciting and unique opportunity to encourage more people to leave their cars at home and choose a safe, reliable and green form of public transport."

Peak fares are currently scheduled to return just weeks after the imposition of an 8.7 per cent price increase comes into force across the ScotRail network on 1 April.

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