Council calls for rail ticket review over bridge closure

09-12-2015. Picture Michael Gillen.  M876, A876 looking towards Kincardine. Approach road to Clackmannanshire Bridge and Kincardine Bridge at Higgins Neuk Roundabout. Forth Road Bridge diversions.
09-12-2015. Picture Michael Gillen. M876, A876 looking towards Kincardine. Approach road to Clackmannanshire Bridge and Kincardine Bridge at Higgins Neuk Roundabout. Forth Road Bridge diversions.

Rail bosses have been challenged to review their fares after discount deals were offered by bus companies while the Forth Road Bridge is closed.

The call comes from Fife Council as the Kingdom prepares for another week of delays, congestion and long detours to get in and out of the capital.

09-12-2015. Picture Michael Gillen.  M876, A876 looking towards Kincardine. Approach road to Clackmannanshire Bridge and Kincardine Bridge at Higgins Neuk Roundabout. Forth Road Bridge diversions.

09-12-2015. Picture Michael Gillen. M876, A876 looking towards Kincardine. Approach road to Clackmannanshire Bridge and Kincardine Bridge at Higgins Neuk Roundabout. Forth Road Bridge diversions.

Stagecoach has added 33 extra buses to its routes and is running services every ten minutes at peak times - the equivalent of 11,000 extra seats - in a bid to ease congestion.

It has also introduced a £3 return ticket from Fife’s Park & Ride facailities in west Fife and Dunfermline bus station.

A standard return ticket from Kirkcaldy to Edinburgh is £14.80 and a weekly pass comes in at £42.

Scotrailhas added 8000 seats by pulling in carriages from services across the central belt to cope with the thousands of Fifers pouring on to trains - and many services, specially those in rush hour, are still packed.

A single to Edinburgh is £7.80 and an off peak return £9.40, rising to £13.90 at other times.

The Council says it has raised the issue with operator, Abellio, and has urged it to address ‘‘an errenous situation.’’

Councillor Lesley Laird, deputy leader, said: ‘‘Travellers are also raising questions about the disparity in bus and train travel costs. We have previously raised the issue with Abellio, about what we feel may be an erroneous situation in Fife commuter rail ticket prices, and this is being brought into focus more closely with current events.

“I am aware that employees across Fife are making a huge effort to ensure that they get to work on time.

‘‘However, many people are now incurring additional, and in some cases, significant travel to work costs. While both employees and employers recognise the challenges of the situation, they are also voicing concerns about the sustainability of these additional costs.’’

A spokesman for Scotrail said: “We are working tirelessly with all partners – including Fife Council - to deliver the Scottish Government’s travel plan during the bridge closure.

‘‘We’ve played a major role in keeping Scotland moving by hiring trains from other operators and enlisting additional staff. By working together, we’re supporting local communities, businesses and the national economy.”

The Council is also staying in touch with the Kingdom’s business community as it makes alternative ar4rangements to keep its operations running smoothly.

Cllr Laird added: “It’s important for us to know the challenges that businesses are facing with the closure of the Forth Road Bridge.

‘‘The traffic measures put in place by Transport Scotland are generally working well, but there are a few questions emerging that I think will require them to be a little bit more flexible.

“While concessions are being made for heavy goods vehicles in Fife, a significant number of our businesses rely on light goods vehicles, which are not currently being afforded any concessions in terms of routing. We have asked Transport Scotland to look at this, and I urge them to make an early decision to help mitigate some of the disruption.

“The local business community has been working hard to make alternative plans to keep their customers satisfied. I would like to thank Fife firms and their employees for their very positive approach to this situation and ask businesses to keep in touch and to raise any concerns that they may have.”

>> Businesses are feeling the impact of the Forth Road Bridge closure, with Freight Transport Association members reporting thousands of pounds in additional costs for re-routing their fleets.

One member cited increased costs of £11,000 per week which included compensation for extra mileage to self-employed drivers and employing additional staff to cover left over stops from existing drivers who have less time to deliver due to driving back and forth.

Another put the financial hit at £2000-£4000 per day as it runs 20-40 vehicles per day.

Karen Dee, FTA’s director of policy, said: “This is not just a problem for our Scottish members, it is having an impact throughout the UK and the priority must be to get the bridge open to all traffic as soon as possible.

“The bridge is vital to our national roads infrastructure and using alternatives is adding time and cost to our members who operate on very tight margins. Their contracts have all been agreed on the assumption of using the bridge so a 50-mile detour is significant.”

The FTA says the two week run-up to Christmas is the busiest time of year for members, whether they are delivering food and drink, mail and parcels, fuel or festive gifts, and says the knock-on effect of the additional costs will be higher prices for customers if the problem is not quickly resolved.