ScotRail (Peak Fares Removal Pilot)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 February 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

7. I apologise for being late for this session, Presiding Officer. I got my times mixed up.

To ask the Scottish Government what criteria it plans to use to assess how successful the ScotRail peak fares removal pilot has been. (S6O-03076)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The ScotRail peak fares removal pilot has been extended to 28 June 2024. An interim evaluation is under way to examine the impacts on rail travel patterns and other modes, as well as a formal value for money assessment.

A final evaluation will be undertaken at the end of the pilot, and the Scottish Government will carefully consider the impact and long-term sustainability of that pilot with reference to three main strands: a multimodal evaluation of current travel patterns and the impact during and potentially after the pilot; evaluation of the impact on rail travel patterns before and during the pilot; and a value for money assessment of the pilot.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

The decision to remove what was, in effect, a tax on workers was absolutely correct. It has been received really well—certainly, the workers I speak to who are struggling with real difficulty at this time have welcomed it.

I welcome what the minister said. Will she ensure that she comes back to the Parliament on that? I believe that all parties should work together for what is a good policy and that we should get a decision to continue that policy indefinitely—certainly before we reach 28 June.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I agree with Alex Rowley that we have to look at the context of the peak fare removal within the wider issue of how we support more people to travel by public transport. However, as I have said, we need to have a robust assessment, and I am quite happy to share that with members across parties.

Alex Rowley is also correct in identifying what the pilot means for people during a cost of living crisis. Those who travel the line from Cowdenbeath to Edinburgh three times a week, from October at the start of the pilot to June at its end, will have saved £680; those who travel five times a week will have saved £1,134. There have been savings for many workers in Cowdenbeath, in Fife and across Scotland.

Yes, the evaluation has to measure value for money, but it must also measure whether we can get a modal shift so that people consistently use our railway system.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Kevin Stewart has a brief supplementary question.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

Will the minister detail the benefits that that Scottish Government initiative offers to commuters and the travelling public in Aberdeen and the north-east more broadly? What does the Government hope to achieve through the extension of the removal of peak fares?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Be as brief as possible, minister.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The extension allows us to continue to monitor the pilot. Members will realise that we have had an extensive period of storms. The extension will help us to give a better assessment on a regular basis. It certainly helps to have more robust data to inform the final evaluation.

There are savings across the north-east. The levels of savings that I talked about in relation to Mr Rowley’s question also apply. The daily fare between Stonehaven and Aberdeen was £10.50 before the trial; it is now £7.50. That benefit is immediate. However, we have to assess the initiative for the longer term.