Edinburgh trams: Under-22s from Capital will be able to carry on travelling free of charge until end of year

Council hopes Scottish Government review will prompt ministers to extend free fares scheme
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Under-22s from Edinburgh will be able to carry on travelling free on the city’s trams until the end of the year.

The board of Edinburgh Trams has decided to extend free fares for the age group until December 31 despite funding for the policy having ended. City transport chiefs are pinning their hopes on a Scottish Government “Fair Fares” review which they hope will lead to ministers agreeing to finance the scheme.

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The government introduced free bus fares for under-22s in January, but it has so far refused to extend the scheme to cover trams. The city council was funding the free tram fares for under-22s, but that stopped in March because of the budget constraints facing the authority. Because the trams currently have enough capacity to carry under-22s at little extra cost the free fares have remained.

Under-22s can continue to travel free on Edinburgh's trams up until the end of the year.  Picture: Lisa Ferguson.Under-22s can continue to travel free on Edinburgh's trams up until the end of the year.  Picture: Lisa Ferguson.
Under-22s can continue to travel free on Edinburgh's trams up until the end of the year. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

Transport convener Scott Arthur said: “Edinburgh Trams has looked at this quite carefully, and they think they can extend free under-22 tram travel until the end of the year, by which time we hope to have seen the Fair Fares review from from Scottish Government, on public transport use generally. Countries across Europe are doing quite innovative things about subsidising public transport use, so there's a lot of expectations on that report, but I think quite a simple one would be to extend bus travel to include trams.”

He said the policy of free fares for under-22s would be particularly important when the extension to Newhaven opens because there were a lot of young people living along the route, some of them in deprived circumstances. And he said he was hoping for talks soon with new Transport Minister Kevin Stewart.

“I did write to the new transport minister asking him to meet to talk about all the positive stuff we're doing but also to talk about this particular issue, particularly within the context of the fact that the line to Newhaven will be serving quite a lot of people who are on low incomes, and about making the case to extend free travel to them in particular. So hopefully we'll have that meeting soon. If you’re serious about tackling climate change and everything you should be treating buses and trams on the same basis.”

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Under-22 travel on Glasgow’s subway is also excluded from the Scottish Government free fares scheme and the subway does now charge under-22s. Cllr Arthur said: “Edinburgh Trams have been really good at how they have dealt with us, they have tried to put their passengers first and also make sure their staff are put first as well.”

He also questioned the government’s commitment to scrap peak-time rail fares for six months from October. “I'd love to see the sums which say reducing rail fares is better value for money than under-22 trams.”