Kids ‘go free’ on ScotRail as SNP ministers try to tempt passengers back on trains


Passengers need incentives if they are to be tempted back to using ScotRail in the working from home era, the transport minister has admitted.

Jenny Gilruth spoke to the Record as the franchise officially becomes the responsibility of the Scottish Government from today.

ScotRail – which operates the vast majority of passenger services north of the Border – will now be directly accountable to SNP ministers.

It comes at a time when the number of Scots taking the train every day has plummeted due to two years of coronavirus restrictions that caused a shift away from the traditional commute.

Although offices have finally reopened many workers are still choosing to work from home as much as possible.

And that means transport bosses face tough questions on how to fund the railways in the long-term while maintaining services.

Rail unions have criticized a move to reduce the number of daily Scotrail services to 2150 from a pre-pandemic peak of 2400.

Off-peak and peak fares also rose by 3.8 per cent in January.



Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth

“I do recognize that rail is more expensive than bus and that puts many people off using it,” the SNP minister said.

“We have a challenge in government just now in that we need to encourage people back onto the railway.

“Trains are not full and are operating at much-reduced capacity.

“More people are using the train at the weekend as more people are working from home.”

Kids aged 15 and under will be able to travel for free this weekend if accompanied by a fare-paying adult who has downloaded a voucher in advance.

It’s the kind of incentive that could become more commonplace as a way of increasing passenger numbers.

Gilruth regularly takes the train from her home in Markinch, Fife, when commuting to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

Passengers traveling before 9.30am on weekdays currently pay higher fares but that system could be reviewed.

“I take a service at around 7.30am that before lockdown would have been pretty crowded and now there are lots of empty seats,” she said.

“Do we need to look again at what constitutes a peak service?”

The Scottish Government is committed to reducing car usage across the country by 20 per cent by the end of the decade as part of its climate change plan.

Gilruth believes the rising cost of petroleum means some Scots will “vote with their feet” and leave their car at home.

Opening new routes to bring the railway to more communities is another way that could increase passenger numbers.

“I’m lucky to live in a village that has a station but a lot of folk in Fife don’t,” she added.

“We need to think about how we support the reopening of railway lines.

“We’ve done that in the Borders and it’s opened up transport links in that part of Scotland that just didn’t exist previously.

“If we to get people out of their cars, and on to rail or on to the bus network, we need to ensure they reach them in the first instance.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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