Fifer commuters facing biggest rise in decade being ‘priced off trains’ MSP warns

A Fife MSP has warned that rail users are ‘being priced off the trains’ as Scotland rail users are to be hit with the largest fares rise in nearly a decade.

By Craig Smith, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 1:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 1:46 pm

Alex Rowley, Labour member for MId Scotland and Fife, has written to transport secretary Graeme Dey calling for a rethink on plans to put both peak and off-peak fares up by 3.8% from January 24.

The Scottish Government has described the move as a “necessary step” after cash was ploughed into the rail sector during the pandemic, but it comes at a time when Fife rail users are facing a significant cut in services.

“The rail sector has faced a difficult time during the pandemic but the answer cannot be to hike fares by 3.8% as the Scottish Government has announced for January,” Mr Rowley said.

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“We have seen cuts being made to services across Fife with the excuse that user numbers are down, but for many the reason they are not using trains is they cannot afford to do so. People are being priced off the railways.

“Given the focus on climate and reducing emissions it seems through using public transport, it seem illogical to make using trains so expensive people cannot use them but that is what is happening.

“Instead of operating railways as a public service, the Scottish Government by continually increasing the costs are driving people off the trains, making this use of transport more of a luxury than necessity.”

Proposed changes to Fife services have already been met with criticism from local politicians, with a significant reduction in services between West Fife and Kirkcaldy and no more direct links to Perth and the Highlands from Kirkcaldy planned.

More journeys within Fife will also require a change at Inverkeithing, and journey times to Edinburgh will be increased.

Mr Rowley said; “Cutting services and hiking up costs is not the way to build the strong public rail service we need to take Scotland forward.

“Fife is getting a really raw deal and I am urging all Fife politicians regardless of party affiliation to speak up for Fife.”

Throughout the pandemic, the Scottish Government has supported rail franchises with more than £1bn including over £450m in emergency measures, something transport minister Mr Dey acknowledged was not sustainable.

“For over a decade the Scottish Government has kept fares increases down by ensuring they are in line with RPI, or even lower in the case of off-peak fares,” he said.

“Scottish rail fares remain, on average, 20% lower than across the rest of Great Britain.

“We know that any increase is unwelcome for passengers, however the changes we are implementing this year are essential to our wider recovery plans.

“We challenged ScotRail to develop robust plans to increase revenue, while also seeking to identify efficiency savings that help put rail services on a sustainable footing.

“It is only right we implement proposals where they make sense given the changes in passenger travel patterns.

“However, we know that there is much work to be done in encouraging people back to rail if we are to achieve our net zero targets.

“That is why we have instructed ScotRail to identify ways to encourage increased demand at the right time, in the right place, as we continue to recover from the pandemic.”

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