South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has welcomed a commitment by the Scottish Government to investigate concerns he has raised over ‘rip-off rail fares’ facing passengers in Dumfries and Galloway.

The commitment was made by Transport Minister Humza Yousaf in response to being questioned on the issue by Colin Smyth in the Scottish Parliament last week (Thursday 30 November).

During the exchange Colin Smyth highlighted the latest research he had carried out which revealed that passengers from Dumfries and Galloway pay more per mile on services on the Nith Valley line than other passengers joining trains on the route in the central belt.

In the Scottish Parliament Colin Smyth asked:

Is the Minister aware of the extent to which passengers in Dumfries and Galloway are being ripped off when it comes to rail fares?”

“I will give the Minister two quick examples. A passenger who travels the 50-mile trip to Glasgow from Kirkconnel on the Nith valley line will pay £13.50 for a single ticket, which is 27p per mile. However, if they drive a few miles north outwith Dumfries and Galloway and catch the train at New Cumnock, they will pay £8.40, which is just 19p per mile for the 43-mile trip. Passengers on 28 commuter routes across Scotland benefit from ScotRail’s flexipass ticket, which allows discounts for regular users, but those discounts are not available anywhere in Dumfries and Galloway, including on the region’s busiest commuter routes from Lockerbie station to Edinburgh and Glasgow”.

“How can the Government say that it is committed to tackling the economic challenges that are faced by Dumfries and Galloway, which is among the lowest-waged regions in Scotland, when those anomalies make it more expensive for passengers from the region to use our railways to get to work?”

In response Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said, 

I will, of course, have a look at the specific anomaly that Colin Smyth suggests exists. As I said, there is a mechanism in the franchise agreement for ScotRail to rectify that. I absolutely agree that passengers and commuters need fair and affordable access to rail, which is why the Scottish Government has taken action on fare rises. They are capped in Scotland and are therefore lower than fares in the rest of the United Kingdom. We will continue to take that action and to drive up performance. To be constructive and helpful, I will take away the information on the fares anomaly that Colin Smyth suggests exists and see whether ScotRail can rectify it.”

Meanwhile rail passengers in the region have been hit by a double whammy after it was announced yesterday (5 December) that both the UK and Scottish Government were increasing rail fares. The UK Government plan to slap an extra 3.6% on fares in January, which cover those services running from Lockerbie station by Virgin rail and Transpennine Express. This will mean passengers travelling from Lockerbie to Edinburgh will see an anytime return fare rise from £35.60 to £36.90.   

Meanwhile the Scottish Government plan an average 3.2% rise in January, which covers Scotrail services such as those on the Nith Valley line. A current single from Kirkconnel to Glasgow will rise from £13.50 to £14.

Colin Smyth MSP said:

“I am pleased that the Minister has agreed to look into the concerns I have raised about rip-off fares on behalf of local passengers but we need to see firm action and fairer fares for Dumfries and Galloway’s passengers. As if these price anomalies aren’t bad enough, we now know that rail passengers face a double whammy with prices seek to be hiked by between 3 and 4 percent next month, at a time few people are seeing their wages rise. We should be encouraging people to use public transport and fare rises won’t do that. These are the biggest  fare hikes for five years for passengers already paying some of the highest fares of any passengers in Western Europe, yet the service they receive from the rail companies are simply not good enough. Frankly, we need to bring the railways into public ownership, creating a rail network that puts passengers first and delivers more affordable rail travel for hard-pressed commuters, with an end to rip-off fares.”

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