Following year of disruption – railway ticket prices to rise again in New Year
Demonstrations against rail fare increases which will go ahead in January 2019.
By Bill Heaney
Rail fares in Scotland are to go up in January 2019, although rises will be restricted for off-peak tickets.
Peak fares will increase by 3.2% next year, mirroring the retail price index (RPI) rate of inflation. All regulated fares in England and Wales are set to go up in line with this rate.
However the rise in off-peak fares north of the border will be held at 2.2%, as the government has pledged to cap them at 1% below inflation.
Dumbarton and Lomond MSP Jackie Baillie had asked Scotrail to cut the price of rail tickets in half for local commuters over the festive period.
She said they deserved this Christmas concession to make up for the disruption that had been suffered by them over the past few months.
The replacement of the bridge over Strathleven Place at Dumbarton had caused traffic chaos during the busiest parts of the day, passengers didn’t know which trains were coming or going.
Communications were poor and station skipping by drivers continued unabated despite the assurances from Scotrail that this would stop.
Jackie Baillie said: ““The rail service experienced by passengers from Dumbarton, Balloch and Helensburgh has been completely unreliable, and this story is repeated across the country.
“The Scottish Government continually blame Network Rail for the problems with our train services, but what they conveniently fail to mention is that ScotRail and Network Rail are managed by the same person; the operation and investment decisions are taken by the same person and the teams work together.
“The Scottish Government must hold the ScotRail Alliance to account for their poor service, because passengers who are being asked to fork out for increased rail fares are getting a worse service in return.”
Michael Matheson and Jackie Baillie MSP talking to commuters in Cardross.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said fare increases were “unwelcome”, but stressed that action had been taken to minimise them.
Staff from rail union RMT staged protests in cities around the UK, including several in Scotland, saying ticket prices were rising “twice as fast as wages”.
The increases in regulated fares are aligned to the RPI inflation rate, a measure of inflation that tracks the change in a sample basket of goods and services.
The RMT argues that a different rate of inflation – the consumer price index (CPI) – should be used instead.
However, they note that even with this more modest rate, currently at 2.5%, fare changes would still “massively outstrip wages”.
Using the rates announced on Wednesday, an anytime single between Edinburgh and Glasgow, which currently costs £14.40, will rise to £14.86.
An off-peak single on the same route, currently costing £12.90, will rise to £13.18.
An anytime return between Aberdeen and Dundee will go from £38.40 to £39.63, while an off-peak return on the same route will rise from £30.90 to £31.58.
Mr Matheson said: “The Scottish government recognises that fares increases are unwelcome. That is why we have taken action to minimise these.”
He added: “This means in Scotland average fares increases are lower than England and Wales, where the UK government applies an increase equivalent to RPI to all regulated fares.
“While passengers make a contribution towards the cost of running the railway through rail fares, in Scotland the majority of rail service costs are met by government subsidy.”
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, said it was “nothing short of a scandal” that ticket prices were “up to five times more than fares in Europe, and rising twice as fast as wages”.
He said: “Even if fares were pegged at the more modest CPI, these latest increases would still massively outstrip wages leaving the British passenger to pay through the nose to travel on rammed out and unreliable services.
“Meanwhile the rail companies, the majority of whom are foreign state owned, are using the British transport system as a cash-cow to hold down their own domestic fares. That is a nonsense and must be stopped.”