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Calls for rail fares freeze for Fife commuters

Councillor Lesley Laird has been championing fairer fares for Fifers.
Councillor Lesley Laird has been championing fairer fares for Fifers.

Calls for a rail fares freeze for Fife commuters have been made amid ongoing concerns about people paying over the odds for train transport in the region.

Transport chiefs in Fife maintain they have a compelling case for the issue to be looked at, arguing that travellers based in the Kingdom have effectively been subsidising other rail users in Scotland by paying two or up to three times more per rail mile.

Councillor Lesley Laird, Fife Council’s depute leader and spokesperson for economy and planning, has now written to Humza Yousaf MSP, Minister for Transport and Islands, requesting a rail price freeze for Fife commuters until a planned wide-scale transport review is carried out by the Scottish Government.

As a result of pressure from Fife Council, a review of rail pricing is now set to become part of Scotland’s National Transport Strategy.

With no start date yet set for that process, however, Mrs Laird is calling for no further price increase for Fife commuters while the review is still pending.

“Whilst I welcome the time and consideration taken to consider the unfair pricing regime that is hurting Fife commuters, the affordability of transport is a key issue for the region,” she said.

“This is why I have asked the Minister to work with Abellio to fulfil this commitment to Fife commuters to address rail pricing inequality issues and work towards a fairer rail pricing offering.

“I am calling on the Minister for Transport to ensure that a price freeze is actioned now, while the Transport Strategy review is underway, as this is likely to take some time.

“I am also calling for this price freeze to remain in place through any transitional arrangement, to ensure that the unfair pricing regime does not worsen.”

The matter has been consistently highlighted by Fife Council in recent months amid suggestions that Fifers are paying more than they should in relation to comparable journeys elsewhere in Scotland.

For example, a 44-and-a-half mile journey from Cupar to Edinburgh costs travellers £23.10 for a day return, although a 40-mile trip from Bridge of Allan to the capital costs just £14.80.

Following calls for the establishment of a working group to examine the issue further, Mrs Laird and council leader David Ross met with Mr Yousaf earlier this year and described the Transport Minister as “receptive” to the region’s case.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government meets around two thirds of the cost of running the railway in Scotland – this significant subsidy helps make fares affordable for all.

“Through fares regulation, we ensure that the vast majority of fares do not rise above the rate of the Retail Price Index (RPI) each year.

“Furthermore, off-peak regulated fares cannot rise any higher than one per cent below the level of RPI.

“We are working on the review of our National Transport Strategy, through which we will consider our approach to ensuring the affordability of transport across Scotland, both for fare payers and for taxpayers.

“Rather than a specific review of rail pricing, the purpose of the National Transport Strategy is to set the strategic vision for transport policy making for the next 20 years.

“Fife Council’s concerns will be considered further in our work to develop rail fares policy in future.”

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