Peak Rail Fares Removal Pilot

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 21 March 2024.

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Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

4. To ask the First Minister what analysis of passenger behaviour and numbers has been carried out since the inception of the removal of peak rail fares pilot. (S6F-02965)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

The trial is an exciting and unique opportunity to encourage more people to leave their cars at home and choose a safe, reliable and green form of public transport. I confirm that an interim analysis is due to be published shortly, which examines the impact on rail travel patterns and other modes. The Scottish Government will carefully consider the impact and, of course, the long-term sustainability of any further measures before we confirm our next steps.

Photo of Kevin Stewart Kevin Stewart Scottish National Party

The removal of peak fares has been greatly welcomed by my constituents and by tens of thousands of other people across Scotland. In my opinion, it has been beneficial to many during these tough times that have been caused by the cost of living crisis.

Can the First Minister give an indication of whether the removal of peak fares will become permanent?

The First Minister:

I am pleased to hear about the positive impact that the policy is having on Mr Stewart’s constituents. I have heard similar stories from my constituents and those of other MSPs across the country, particularly during the cost of living crisis.

The purpose of the ScotRail peak fares removal pilot is twofold: the first purpose is to find out whether such measures help to move people from car to rail use, and the second is to find out whether they help passengers who are facing the cost of living crisis. We know that price and simplicity are crucial for people when it comes to choosing how to travel.

As has been said, the pilot operates until the end of June, so it would, of course, be inappropriate to confirm whether the abolition of peak fares will become permanent ahead of a final evaluation. It will be important to review the data—that is the entire purpose of the pilot—to see whether we are seeing that modal shift, and to examine the data on how much the pilot helps people during a cost of living crisis. When that evaluation has been appropriately analysed, we will inform Parliament of the next stages and steps in relation to the policy.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

There is no doubt that, if we are to get any place near reaching our net zero targets, we have to do much better when it comes to reducing transport emissions. Will the First Minister commit to come back to the chamber soon so that we can, I hope, make the pilot permanent? In effect, people are being priced off public transport. If we want to tackle that and get more people to use public transport, it is exactly that type of step, which I welcome, that we now need to make permanent.

The First Minister:

We will evaluate the data and, of course, we will bring forward analysis of it, but it is important that we do not pre-empt that data. We need to see whether the data has demonstrated the modal shift that Alex Rowley rightly talks about. Let us not pre-empt the data. Let us examine the data, analyse the evidence and let other MSPs do the same with the analysis of that data.

I agree with the thrust of Alex Rowley’s question that it is important to invest in our public transport. That is why I am pleased that the Government invested in the Levenmouth railway—which, I am sure, Alex Rowley welcomes—and why we have the extremely generous concessionary travel scheme.

I say gently to Alex Rowley that that is why I make the point that, when we introduce various policies to encourage modal shift to reduce our carbon emissions, it is extremely frustrating for the Government that the policies are often opposed by the Opposition. For example, when we introduced the workplace parking levy, Alex Rowley’s colleague Colin Smyth, who is sitting just a couple of rows behind him, called it “highway robbery” and a “car park tax”. It is really unfortunate that, when we bring forward such measures, Opposition parties oppose them simply for the sake of opposing them.