Improvements to our rail services are long overdue
HE problems on Scotland’s trains are well known to anyone who has to rely on them and many others who have been forced into their cars because of the state of the service: the overcrowding at peak times, the lack of punctuality, and the fact that all the promised improvements have been, rather like the trains themselves, slow to arrive.
And then there are the fares, which can be confusing, inconsistent and far too high for the level of service offered. Take the case of Stuart Gray. Mr Gray knows what he is talking about on trains; not only is he a member of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society, he is also a regular traveller between Drumry and Edinburgh and recently he has noticed a discrepancy in the fares. Using a senior railcard, he pays £20.05 for an anytime day return, but a passenger doing a similar journey from nearby will pay £3.55 less.
Mr Gray says he is struggling to get his head round the lack of logic but it is not the only inconsistency in the fares that are charged across the network.
Passengers in some parts of Scotland will pay much more per mile than others; there are also kinks in the system that mean two passengers making the same journey will pay widely varying prices.
These inconsistencies need to be ironed out, but it is only one part of the bigger problem. Earlier this month, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf announced a free week for monthly and annual season ticket holders, which was sold to them as a thank-you for their patience during the recent disruption and upgrades.
However, what the free week is in reality is a tacit admission of the current parlous state of the service. When Abellio took over the ScotRail franchise last year, it promised all kinds of improvements to the trains, the services and the fares. More than one year on, passengers like Mr Gray know the truth. Delivery of the improvements is overdue.