Rail fares to increase by 3.6 per cent from January
Commuters face a 3.6 per cent hike in rail fares from January, but ScotRail passengers travelling outside rush hours will see a smaller rise.
The increase is the biggest for some six years and is nearly double last year's 1.9 per cent rise.
However, off-peak tickets on Scotland's main train firm will increase by 2.6 per cent - 1 per cent less than on other operators such as Virgin Trains.
The 3.6 per cent increase includes season tickets and peak-rate - or "Anytime" - fares.
The rises, set by ministers, are based on last month's retail price index (RPI) measure of inflation of 3.6 per cent, announced today, which increased from 3.5 per cent in June.
The news will re-open the debate about who pays for the railways, with unions claiming operators' shareholders benefit while ministers insist passengers should help pay for the massive improvements to the network underway.
Transport minister Humza Yousaf said: “The Scottish Government has restricted annual increases in fare costs to ensure Scotland has the lowest price increases in the UK.
“While there has to be an increase in fares to support rail services, our actions ensure the annual increase for key fares is never more than inflation and that any increase for off-peak fares is always less than inflation.
"This allows us to continue to invest in improvements, to grow passenger numbers and to ensure rail travel is fair, affordable and an attractive alternative to travelling by car."
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators and track owner Network Rail, said: “Money from fares pays to run and improve the railway, making journeys better, boosting the economy, creating skilled jobs and supporting communities across Britain, and politicians set increases to season tickets.
"Many major rail industry costs rise directly in line with RPI."
But Rail, Maritime and Transport union leader Mick Cash called the increases an assault on passengers.
He said: "The huge hike in fares confirmed today is another kick in the teeth for passengers who already fork out colossal sums to travel on rammed out, unreliable trains while the private operators are laughing all the way to the bank.
"With over three quarters of Britain's railways now in the hands of foreign states, these huge sums of money aren't being invested in essential upgrades and modernisation here, they are being siphoned off to subsidise transport services over the Channel.
The union said its research with the Trades Union Congress showed fares have been increasing at twice the rate of pay rises in recent years.
David Sidebottom, director of passenger watchdog Transport Focus said: "Commuters do not give value for money on their railways a high satisfaction score - just one third according to our latest survey.
"So while performance remains patchy and with pay and wages not keeping pace with inflation, they will feel rightly aggrieved if they are paying much higher rises next January."
A ScotRail spokesman said: "The independent National Rail Passenger Survey by Transport Focus confirmed that nine out of ten customers are satisfied with ScotRail.
"The money from fares is being invested now to deliver an even better service in the future.
"We are building the best railway Scotland’s ever had, which will mean faster journeys, more seats and better services.
“85 per cent of our revenue comes from fares that are regulated by the Scottish Government.
"We will set out our fares for 2018 later this year.”