Anger at great train ‘rip-off’ as punctuality falls and passengers face fares hike

Haymarket Station. Pic: Ian Georgeson
Haymarket Station. Pic: Ian Georgeson
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Passengers are being “ripped off” by an increase in rail fares as punctuality across the network plummets to a 13-year low, it has been claimed.

Commuters will this year see a 2.8 per cent increase on ScotRail services, with an average increase of 3.1 per cent across the UK as a whole.

The fare rises come despite analysis showing the worst level of performance across the UK since September 2005.

READ MORE: ScotRail fares should be frozen in Scottish budget, Labour says

Transport Scotland said the fare rises were needed for continued investment in the network, but Labour said customers were being “crippled” by the rising cost of rail travel.

Research by the Press Association shows one in seven trains across the UK were delayed by at least five minutes in the past 12 months as a series of major issues have plagued the railway.

Extreme weather, errors in the launch of new timetables, strikes and signalling failures are among the causes.

Amid growing anger among those who rely on the railway, a series of protests will be held across the UK today, with research showing passengers spend up to five times as much on season tickets as those in other European countries.

Labour analysis of more than 180 UK routes suggests an average commuter is paying £2,980 for their annual season ticket, up £786 from 2010, which was the year the Conservatives came to power as part of a coalition government.

Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman, Colin Smyth MSP, said: “This rail fare rise is a rip-off.

“Commuters are now being forced to pay more for train services which are plagued by delays, cancellations and overcrowding.

“Across the country this fare rise will cripple commuters, with annual season tickets on some routes now costing well in excess of £4,000.”

Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said passengers were being “battered by the toxic combination of gross mismanagement and profiteering”.

Bruce Williamson, from campaign group Railfuture said: “After a terrible year of timetable chaos, passengers are being rewarded with yet another kick in the wallet.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “While any fare increase is unwelcome, calls for a fares freeze underestimate the impact of these on the public purse.

“Two-thirds of the cost of running the railway is already met through Scottish Government subsidy, with the remainder through rail passenger revenues. Any change to rail fares could therefore have a significant impact on the taxpayer.

“ScotRail accept that their performance has not been good enough recently, and the issue of a remedial notice demonstrates ministers have made clear the need for robust improvement.”