Abellio to keep ScotRail’s free first class secret

Jeff Hoogesteger, chief executive of Abellio Group, with Transport Minister Keith Brown. Picture: Jane Barlow
Jeff Hoogesteger, chief executive of Abellio Group, with Transport Minister Keith Brown. Picture: Jane Barlow
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A SECRET perk enjoyed by passengers “in the know” is to be retained by new ScotRail operator Abellio – travelling first class at no extra cost.

The little-known quirk came about because some trains with first-class seats run on routes where first-class tickets are not available – so anyone can sit on them.

It’s been some time since I overheard a fellow passenger state ‘you can use first class on this service with any ticket’

Commuter

It has even led to commuter trains being crammed with passengers while their first-class compartments remain empty.

ScotRail only sells first-class tickets on its inter-city routes – the main line between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and between Aberdeen and Inverness.

However, some of those diesel-powered trains also operate on “suburban” routes, for which only standard-class tickets can be bought.

They include routes from both Edinburgh and Glasgow to Dunblane and Fife.

That means passengers lucky enough to find themselves on such trains can avail themselves of the “extra space and comfort for luxurious travel”, as ScotRail describes its first class.

The seats also have plug sockets for recharging mobile phones and laptops.

These are currently only available to standard-class passengers on ScotRail’s newest fleet of electric trains.

An Abellio spokesman said: “There is no change from what is there just now.”

ScotRail’s first-class tickets cost significantly more than standard class. On the Edinburgh-Glasgow route they are 70 per cent higher at peak hours – £39.90 return compared with £23.10.

One commuter who travels on a Glasgow-Fife train said it was a closely-guarded secret.

He said: “It’s been some time since I overheard a fellow passenger state ‘you can use first class on this service with any ticket’.

“True enough, periodically on the Queen Street to Markinch evening peak service, the train has carriages providing first class to the front and rear.

“I certainly don’t repeat this secret knowledge, as the odd time the train is full other passengers squeeze into standard, still thinking first class is inaccessible with a standard ticket.

“So best to keep quiet and simply enjoy the short trip home in style.”

Other commuters enjoying a first-class ride include at least one morning rush-hour train on the Fife Circle into Edinburgh.

However, some ScotRail officials seemed unaware that the trains involved – known as Express class 170s – routinely operated on such lines.

A spokeswoman initially said: “Express 170s are not usually diagrammed on the suburban routes, but may occasionally run on these routes due to disruption.” But she later added: “On a small number of occasions, Express 170s will run on non-Express routes, and the morning peak Fife Circle service is one of these instances.

“This practice has been in place for decades and is designed to ensure we use the available rolling stock as efficiently as possible.”