Nicola Sturgeon has admitted there is no timetable for when fares on ScotRail could be slashed.
The First Minister was at Queen Street station, in Glasgow, today to mark the Scottish Government formally taking control of the country’s largest passenger network.
She said her government had “a duty now that the railways are in public ownership to demonstrate to people that it brings advantages”.
A review of fares across the public transport network is due to take place this year and will consider how the pandemic has impacted passenger behaviour.
Transport minister Jenny Gilruth previously told the Record that peak time fares could be looked at – and the SNP leader today agreed it was an issue “in scope” of the review.
The Scottish Government has launched a “national conversation” on the future of ScotRail that will ask staff and passengers on how the network can be improved.
Asked if peak fares could be reformed as part of the review, Sturgeon said: “Yeah, I wouldn’t want to rule any of that out. I think all of these issues should be on the table,” she replied.
“I think one of the most challenging things we need to work our way through is what is going to be the new normal in terms of people’s travel to offices and workplaces.
“Where is the hybrid? [working] model going to settle? We don’t really know that yet, but it will have big implications on people’s use of public transport.
“So all of these issues I think have to be in scope, as we consider these things and reach conclusions on them.”
Asked when would be the earliest that fares on ScotRail could fall, the First Minister said she did not want to “pre-empt” the review.
The SNP leader stressed that they were 20 per cent lower in Scotland than in England, but added: “Affordability of travel on our railways is important and I think it’s an important part of what we want to do through public ownership.”
She continued: “For many people it is still a serious issue of affordability.
“This is one of the key issues that we need to take forward.
“Obviously, we need to marry that up with the issues around service provision, reliability and accessibility of services, and also the consideration around the change to travel patterns that have come from the pandemic.”
Transport minister Gilruth had earlier told BBC Radio Scotland that ScotRail passing to public control was “a day of celebration”.
Graham Simpson, the Scottish Conservatives transport spokesman, said: “Given the almighty mess the SNP have made of running Ferguson Marine and Prestwick Airport since they were nationalised, it’s hard to have confidence that ScotRail will prosper in their hands.
“And yet Jenny Gilruth described today as a day of celebration in her interview this morning.
“That’s quite a boast, given her party’s track record.
“With record fare increases introduced this year, and with no plans by the SNP to reverse service cuts and ticket-office closures, I’m not sure passengers will share her optimism.”
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