Edinburgh trams: Scottish Government refuses to fund free tram travel for under-22s

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

The Scottish Government has ruled out funding free travel for under-22s on Edinburgh's trams as it published a long-awaited public transport review.

The Fair Fares Review was set up to make Scotland's public transport system more accessible, available, and affordable, with the costs of transport more fairly shared across government, business, and society. Its recommendations include developing proposals for a national integrated ticketing system and fare structure, as well as free rail travel for companions accompanying eligible blind people.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But although the review looked at a wide range of options, including free fares for under-22s on both Edinburgh trams and the Glasgow subway, the move was rejected. Explaining the rationale for the decision, the review said: "This option focuses support - £5m-£15m - within Edinburgh and Glasgow which have strong bus systems and so is not considered a good use of resources compared with other options as it would have a more marginal impact. In addition, Edinburgh Trams already provide concessionary travel to Edinburgh residents."

There had been high hopes that the Scottish Government would use the review to change its position on the question of free tram fares for under-22s. It excluded trams from the free fares scheme it introduced for under-22s on buses in January 2022, leaving Edinburgh to cover the cost of ensuring the concession applied on trams as well.

But later that year the council said it could no longer afford to continue the under-22s' free tram fares. There was unanimous cross-party support at the council for calling on the Scottish Government to fund the free tram travel, but there was no change of heart and the cost of the policy is currently being met by Edinburgh Trams.

Edinburgh transport convener Scott Arthur said the failure of the review to change policy meant Edinburgh was losing out. He said: "It is recommended that under-22s will get free inter-island foot passengers travel in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, so it is incredible the same does not apply to tram travel in our Capital. Edinburgh is being shortchanged yet again.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"By not treating concessionary travel on bus and tram on an equal basis, it will only make it harder for Edinburgh to meet the Scottish Government’s own climate and traffic reduction targets. Edinburgh Trams currently covers the cost  of free U22 travel, and I feel that is neither sustainable nor acceptable.

"This decision comes on the back of the Scottish Government ‘pausing’ investment in bus priority measures – a monumental folly."

Cllr Arthur said he welcomed publication of the review, but was disappointed it was not making more progress towards "the fully integrated public transport system Scotland needs".

He said: "I welcome mention of a possible national and/or regional integrated ticket and fare structure, but we have to do more than ‘consider’  this if we are to tackle transport poverty in Scotland. At the core of this has to be making bus travel more affordable and reliable across Scotland, coupled with excellent integration with rail.  

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I am delighted, however,  to see that extending free travel on rail services for companions accompanying eligible Blind Persons Concessionary Travel cardholders is being considered, as I know Sight Scotland has campaigned on this point for some time." 

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.