Rail commuters face 2.4% fares rise as operator unveils loss
ScotRail has invested in new trains
Scottish commuters returning to work after the Christmas and New Year break, will be hit by an inflation-busting 2.4% increase in rail fares.
An annual season ticket between Glasgow to Edinburgh is expected to rise by £114 to £4,198.
The fares increase comes into effect just days after ScotRail’s operating company reported an after tax loss of £10m over a 15-month period .
The figures were published just weeks after Abellio was told it will be stripped of the franchise three years early after failing to hit performance targets.
Abellio ScotRail lost £7.9m before tax on turnover of nearly £990m between 1 January 2018 and 31 March 2019.
The Scottish government contract to provide rail services, worth more than £7bn over 10 years, was due to last until 2025. But Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has activated a “break clause” to end the franchise in 2022.
The rail operator said its results had been “impacted by operational performance issues.”
Dominic Booth, managing director of Abellio UK, described the decision to end the contract early as “the wrong choice for Scotland’s railway and its customers”.
He said the company had invested more than £475m in new and upgraded trains and created more than 500 extra jobs in Scotland.
ScotRail operates about 2,400 train services a day, and covers all services in Scotland except those run by other operators which cross the border.
The Scottish Government has been criticised by the rail unions for lacking courage in dealing with the franchise system.
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TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Millions of Scottish commuters are being dealt a slap in the face by inflation-busting fare rises while their own wages stagnate. It’s sadly just what we’ve come to expect from this Tory government, and the SNP who lack the courage to truly do anything different.
“Transport Secretary Michael Matheson took the right first step when he called time on Abellio’s ScotRail franchise. But refranchising in 2022 isn’t the answer. Only public ownership of the railways can address the sky-high prices and poor services endured by passengers.
“Instead of investing in our railways, Westminster’s Tory government is more interested in undermining transport workforce by slashing workers’ rights across public transport.
“All the SNP are offering rail travellers is half measures. They know Abellio isn’t fit to run Scotland’s railways. But all they’re offering is half measures – letting Abellio stay put till 2022 – and bid for the franchise again then! They should tell Abellio to leave now and never come back.
“Today’s back to work fare hike should be a wake-up call to everyone about what to expect from the SNP government and their Tory backers.”
In its latest accounts, Abellio said it had set “ambitious objectives” at the start of its franchise in April 2015, with the “biggest investment in new trains, track and stations since the Victorian era”.
It added: “During this period of unprecedented investment and change, results for the period have been impacted by operational performance issues following major infrastructure upgrades of track and stations and the late delivery of new trains to support significant timetable improvements.”
Abellio said that since it took over the franchise, it had increased the number of seats available each weekday by 23% and overall rail services by 9% as a result of timetable improvements and bringing in more carriages in new and refurbished trains.