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Do rail passengers in Tayside and Fife deserve a fares freeze in 2022?

Rail passengers in Tayside and Fife will soon find out if they are facing another sharp fares increase in the coming year.

Many are bracing themselves for a hike of around 3.8% as passengers consider commuting and leisure travel plans for 2022.

But with passenger numbers in Scotland still struggling to recover from the pandemic, many believe more should be done to encourage passengers back onto the railways.

The Scottish Green Party and Trade Unions have even called for a fare freeze to boost numbers.

And the climate emergency has focused minds on encouraging more environmentally-friendly train travel too.

But with ScotRail facing a £243.5 million shortfall will the plea fall on deaf ears?

Perth commuter Susannah Rae, who travels to Edinburgh and Fife by rail, said making driving more affordable than taking the train “just encourages car use.”

She added: “Train fares must be priced to encourage people to travel by train.”

Freeze rail fares

Mark Ruskell, Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said: “It’s clear that our public transport networks are struggling to recover from the pandemic.

“But additional costs being passed on to customers isn’t going to help.”

ScotRail timetable

Mr Ruskell added: “Affordability is an issue.”

And he highlighted the Fair Fares Review – a component of the Greens’ agreement with the Scottish Government. The review will look at discounts and concessions available to travellers.

“Encouraging people to safely return to trains and buses will be key to improving services and tackling the climate emergency.”

Fares increase would hit the ‘most vulnerable’

Scotland’s four rail unions ASLEF, RMT, TSSA and Unite have told transport secretary Michael Matheson that Scottish commuters deserve a fares freeze this Christmas.

The Retail Price Index (RPI) figure for July is the basis for setting rail fares.

But unions say a 3.8% increase would price many off trains.

RMT regional organiser Mick Hogg said: “Rail fare rises hit the poorest people in Scotland the hardest. Rail travel is the cleanest and greenest transport there is. We need a fares freeze to get everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us, back on the trains.”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said 2021 had been “a rough year for Scotland’s workers”.

He said stagnating wages meant a fares increase is the “last thing they need”.

“Passenger numbers on our railways are still below what they were before the pandemic hit us. Increasing fares will further deter hard pressed passengers from returning to our railways.

“With Christmas just around the corner now would be the perfect time for Michael Matheson to announce a fares freeze for 2022.”

Transport Scotland said next year’s rail fares were under review and a decision was imminent.

“We will consider the announcement by the UK’s Office of National Statistics on the July 2021 RPI figure in the wider review of options on future fares which will take account of the impact of the pandemic on Scotland’s railway.”

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