Scotrail fare hike a ‘rip off ’ after poor performance
Rail fares have soared in recent years – and commuters may respond by taking to the roads
A 2.8 per cent rise in Scotrail fares comes into affect today, with the increase branded a “ripoff ” amid growing anger over the transport operator.
The price hike comes as research suggests UK passengers spend up to five times as much on season tickets as those in other European countries.
Scotrail’s reputation has been battered in recent weeks by the cancellation of hundreds of train services to complete a backlog in staff training. Scottish Labour said the latest fare rise would “cripple” customers.
Passengers are being “ripped off ” by an increase in rail fares as punctuality across the network plummets to a 13-year low, it has been claimed.
Commuters will this year see a 2.8 per cent increase on Scotrail services, with an average increase of 3.1 per cent across the UK as a whole.
The fare rises come despite analysis showing the worst level of performance across the UK since September 2005.
Transport Scotland said the fare rises were needed for continued investment in the network, but Labour said customers were being “crippled” by the rising cost of rail travel.
Research shows one in seven trains across the UK were delayed by at least five minutes in the past 12 months as a series of major issues plagued the railway system.
Extreme weather, errors in the launch of new timetables, strikes and signalling failures are among the causes.
Amid growing anger among those who rely on the railway, a series of protests will be held across the UK today, with research showing that passengers spend up to five times as much on season tickets as those in other European countries.
Labour analysis of more than 180 UK routes suggests that an average commuter is paying £2,980 for their annual season ticket, up £786 on 2010, which was the year the Conservatives came to power as part of a coalition government.
Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: “This rail fare rise is a rip-off. Commuters are now being forced to pay more for train services, which are plagued by delays, cancellations and overcrowding.
“Across the country this fare rise will cripple commuters, with annual season tickets on some routes now costing well in excess of £4,000.”
Rail, Maritime & Transport trade union general secretary Mick Cash said passengers were being “battered by the toxic combination of gross mismanagement and profiteering”.
Bruce Williamson, from campaign group Railfuture said: “After a terrible year of timetable chaos, passengers are being rewarded with yet another kick in the wallet.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “While any fare increase is unwelcome, calls for a fares freeze underestimate the impact of these on the public purse.
“Two-thirds of the cost of running the railway is already met through Scottish Government subsidy, with the remainder through rail passenger revenues. Any change to rail fares could therefore have a significant impact on the taxpayer.
“Scotrail accept that their performance has not been good enough recently and the issue of a remedial notice demonstrates ministers have made clear the need for robust improvement.”
There is something rather romantic about travelling by train – so much so that Visitscotland promotes “Scotland’s Great Rail Journeys” through some of this country’s most stunning scenery such as the West Highland Line from Glasgow to Mallaig and the trip from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. This is rail transport at its finest, travel for its own sake, for enjoyment. But the ordinary experience of many Scottish commuters attempting to travel on more workaday routes is anything but joyful.
Instead, delays and cancellations have become all too common – with Scotrail’s current problems recently branded “unacceptable” by Transport Secretary Michael Matheson in the Scottish Parliament. Those failings can have significant knock-on effects on individuals and the wider Scottish economy. Indeed, one Edinburgh shop boss last month went so far as to say he would never again employ someone who relied on trains to get to work because of the delays experienced by a key member of staff. That may have been an overreaction, but the frustrations of those concerned are understandable to most people.
And so it was hardly surprising when there was a chorus of outrage over the latest ticket price rises. Scotrail’s fares were due to go up today by an average of 2.8 per cent, while London North Eastern Railway’s fares were to increase by 3.4 per cent. Across the whole of the UK, the average rise is 3.1 per cent.
An analysis by Labour of more than 180 routes found the average annual season ticket cost £2,980, up £786 from 2010, and that fares had risen nearly three times faster than wages.
With UK rail travel already among the most expensive in Europe, commuters can be forgiven for complaining about rises – particularly when the service is not up to scratch. Apart from delays, finding a seat on the most popular rushhour journeys is often a struggle.
The problem for those who travel by other means is that rail travellers may do more than complain, they could decide to switch to the roads, leading to increased congestion, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
The railways are a vital part of this country’s transport infrastructure, playing a key role in the economy. Trains need to run on time except in the most exceptional circumstances. At a time when too many services are not reliable, fare rises only add insult to injury.
0 Scotrail – where fares will rise 2.8 per cent – has been issued a remedial notice after poor performances last year