Fairer rail fares campaign builds up a head of steam

This  journey from Fife could become cheaper if Fife Council's campaign is successful.
This journey from Fife could become cheaper if Fife Council's campaign is successful.

Fife councillors are optimistic that the Kingdom could soon see fairer rail fares.

This week councillors met Transport Minister Humza Yousaf, and received a positive response to their proposal to establish a working group to bring forward recommendations for a fairer pricing structure.

This is the latest step in a long-running campaign by Fife Council to achieve fairer train prices for travellers.

After the meeting, Councillor Lesley Laird, deputy leader of the council, described the transport minister as: “very receptive to the case we have been making.

“He understood where this issue fits in the context of a fairer and more equal Fife and Scotland.”

And Cllr Laird confirmed: “He has now agreed to look at this issue in more detail to better understand the regional variations on rail pricing.”

Cllr Laird is keen to see work on achieving a fair deal for Fifers started soon.

“This is a long-standing issue going back to 2005 and one not easy to address. There is then, all the more reason to work on it sooner rather than later so that we can put in place a fairer solution,” she said.

The council has already asked Transport Scotland to form a working group to look at bringing forward a fairer pricing regime, and Cllr Laird added this week: “This is a good time to move forward with this work.

“I am pleased that the minister was receptive to this idea and the he has agreed to give further consideration to the issue of either a separate working group or to incorporate the work into the review of national transport strategy.”

Alan Mitchell, chief execubive of Fife Chamber of Commerce, added his voice to the campaign: “~All we want in Fife are the same opportunities as everyone else.

“If we want to encourage more tourists or enable businesses to attract workers from outside, then we need to have a pricing structure that doesn’t disadavantage Fife.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring public transport remains affordable for all. We will continue to engage with Fife Council to understand its concerns in respect of the price of rail fares.”

And while setting fares is a commercial matter for the franchisee, he said that regulation allows Scottish Ministers to ensure that fares are kept below certain thresholds.

Fife Council’s campaign is based on the wide variation in the cost per mile of rail travel, comparing journeys of similar distances. For example, an unrestricted day return between Cupar and Edinburgh– 44.5 miles – costs £23.10, but the 40 mile journey from Bridge of Allan to Edinburgh costs just £14.80.