By Bill Heaney
Rail travellers are set to pay hundreds of pounds more for their commute to work following a rip-off rail fare rise from the SNP government.
Some annual passes are set to increase by more than £100, with all rail fares set to rise by 2.8% from January.
Dumbarton and Lomond constituency MSP, Jackie Baillie, has said the rise is unwelcome following almost a year of poor service for commuters in her constituency.
Passengers from Dumbarton, Alexandria and Helensburgh have suffered from late and cancelled trains and many appearing with too few carriages so passengers are crammed in like sardines.
Since last October commuters have been missing appointments, work, college and university.
The MSP is calling for the Abellio franchise to be terminated and the railways to be brought back into public hands to ensure passengers are put before profits.
Jackie Baillie said: “It is astonishing that rail fares are set to rise by almost three percent, despite wages not rising at the same rate and passengers being expected to simply accept the poor performance.
“This rip off rail fare rise is unwanted, unwelcome and unnecessary and will hit thousands of working people who rely on the railway to get to work.
“This rail franchise is broken; it is time it is terminated. Only bringing the railways back into public hands will ensure that passengers are put before profits.”
Meanwhile, Baillie has welcomed funding a boost from the National Lottery Community Fund to the Bellsmyre Digital Community who have been awarded a total of £75,600.
The group will use the funding to expand and develop their existing range of digital support sessions to the wider community. The group currently provides classes, clubs and certificated courses that support continued and lifelong learning, promoting community cohesion through digital inclusion.
The three year grant from the National Lottery Community Fund will enable the group to work with 280 local people – including children and young people – and will be supported by 25 volunteers.
The MSP commented: “I am delighted that Bellsmyre Digital have secured funding from the National Lottery’s Community Fund. This is a huge funding boost for the group and I know that the work it will enable them to do will be invaluable for the local community.
“I want to thank everyone involved in Bellsmyre Digital for the work that they do locally, I know that this is a huge benefit to the local community.”
On the health front, Baillie, one of the hardest working MSPs at Holyrood, has called for more to be done to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health in young people as figures reveal an increase in referrals to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health service.
The figures, which were revealed in West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership’s recent (abysmal) performance report, show that there has been a 29% increase in CAMHS referrals received and accepted between 2017/18 and 2018/19 in West Dunbartonshire.
This has coincided with a decline against the 18-week referral to treatment target across the whole of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, including in West Dunbartonshire.
At March 2019, more than 20% of children and young people had not received treatment within 18 weeks and the longest waiting time at March 2019 was 32 weeks.
Jackie Baillie said: “It is clear that something is not right in our health and social care service when children and young people are waiting up to 32 weeks to receive treatment for their mental health. And this is despite the best efforts of staff.
“Whilst the increase in referrals is putting pressure on the system it also shows that children and young people are prepared to talk about their problems. We need to do more to tackle the stigma and ensure that children and young people continue to help.
“The SNP government must act urgently to ensure that health boards and local authorities have the resources to meet this growing demand and ensure that children and young people receive the treatment that they need as quickly as possible.”