Many trains are expected to be busier than usual when the six-month trial suspension of peak fares on ScotRail takes effect on Monday, October 2.
The Scottish Government is funding the move to cheaper and simpler fares in a bid to encourage people to travel by rail instead of car. It means passengers can travel at any time of day for off-peak fares until the end of March 2024. In some cases, the cost of journeys is effectively being halved.
Examples include the price of a return ticket between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Falkirk High, where peak-time passengers would normally have to pay £28.90, but will now be able to travel for £14.90. The fare between Inverkeithing and Edinburgh will be cut from £11.10 to £6.50. Some routes do not have peak fares, so will see no change in ticket prices.
ScotRail says the shift towards working from home following Covid has meant a significant drop in people travelling at traditional “rush hours” and passenger numbers at peak periods have settled at only 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. The hope is that the new cheaper fares will attract more people to consider travelling by rail.
And the train operator said it would be adding extra carriages on some of its busiest services, including trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Falkirk High, where every service will operate with seven or eight carriages.
Alex Hynes, Scotland’s Railway managing director, said: “The off-peak all day fares trial is almost upon us, and we are excited for it to start. We want to encourage more people across the country to choose rail travel instead of using the car. Everyone at ScotRail is working hard to make sure that this six-month trial will be a success, and we will be monitoring our services and stations daily to see where we have any significant increases in customer journeys.
“Some services may be busier than normal, so customers are advised to plan their journey using the ScotRail website, app, or social media channels. We know that cost and simplicity are critical factors for people when they choose how to travel, and we are looking forward to delivering this fantastic fare reduction for our customers.”
The Scottish Government is investing £15 million in the fare cut, which is the first of its kind in the UK rail industry. Transport minister Fiona Hyslop said the trial could also help Scotland cut carbon emissions by persuading people to leave their cars at home.