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16.12.16

Scottish transport minister unveils £3m ScotRail fare discounts

ScotRail passengers will get a free week of travel next year as part of a £3m fare discount scheme, the country’s transport minister Humza Yousaf has announced.

The package for discounted travel was offered as part of the Scottish government’s budget statement yesterday to “thank passengers for their patience” while Scotland undertakes extensive improvement work on the railway, which has at times caused severe service disruption.

While monthly and annual season ticket holders will benefit from a free week of travel on Scotland’s railways, saving regular passengers the rough equivalent of a fares freeze, ScotRail will develop a set of fare offers for weekly season ticket holders and more casual travellers, Yousaf noted.

The transport minister said: “We recognise any level of delay or disruption on the rail network in Scotland affects peoples’ lives. This year has been particularly challenging as we take forward our record breaking investment programme on the live network to deliver newer, longer, greener trains on our flagship routes between Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as further afield.

“Passengers rightly deserve an efficient and value for money rail network. That is why we have considered a number of options for rewarding passengers for their custom. During 2017, we will fund an initiative that gives one week's travel free to monthly and annual ScotRail Season ticket holders.

“As service improvements and investment also impact on those across the country who do not use season tickets, we will put in place a number of promotions and fare offers throughout the year to ensure they also benefit from this investment.”

Yousaf stated his confidence that ScotRail can “and will” deliver the service that is expected of them while improvement work progresses, although the government will continue to monitor ScotRail’s delivery of its 249-point performance improvement plan which was published in full last month.

Yousaf and ScotRail have been under severe pressure to placate passengers recently due to a plague of recent problems afflicting Abellio ScotRail services, including a train breakdown near Edinburgh and overhead wiring issues near Glasgow.

The work to finalise the detail of the fare discounts will be completed over the coming months and announced early in the New Year. ScotRail will set a specific period during 2017 which the free week's travel will be available.

Scotrail Alliance managing director Phil Verster said that while the operator “always” keeps passengers moving during improvement works, passengers have been “incredibly patient” during what is the biggest upgrade of Scotland’s rail network since the Victorian era.

“Right across Scotland we are carrying out the necessary work that will allow us to deliver more seats, more services and shorter, hassle free journeys every single day,” he added.

“The free week of travel for our season ticket holders is a 'thank-you for your patience' while we work to deliver a rail network that all of Scotland can be proud of.”

The announcement of the fare reductions will relieve pressure on the Scottish government, which has been under fire from opposition MSPs to back a rail fares freeze. But the Scottish finance secretary Derek Mackay told MSPs at Holyrood this week that the government would not back the measure as its cumulative cost of £58m by 2020 would compromise the ongoing rail investment programme.

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