Train passengers in the North-east will be hit in the pocket by a fare hike in the New Year.
It has been revealed that the price of an average rail ticket in Britain will go up by 3.4% as of January 2 – the largest price hike in five years – and the average rise in Scotland is 3.2%.
Season tickets and peak-time fares will rise by 3.6%, which means commuters travelling from Inverurie to Aberdeen at rush hour already paying £9.10 a day for a return ticket will have to stump an extra 32p daily – more than £6 a month for those travelling regularly.
The equivalent fare for Stonehaven to Aberdeen will rise by 70p a day – an extra £14 a month. Off-peak fares are also rising.
The move has been criticised by unions, however, rail operators say customers can expect investment in the network in the North-east throughout 2018.
Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: “These fare increases are another kick in the teeth for British passengers who will still be left paying the highest fares in Europe to travel on rammed out, unreliable trains where private profit comes before public safety.
“For public-sector workers and many others in our communities who have had their pay and benefits capped or frozen by this Government, these fare increases are another twist of the economic knife while the private train companies are laughing all the way to the bank.”
A spokesman for ScotRail, which runs most trains serving the North-east, said it was the Scottish Government that regulates fares and that ScotRail gets 85% of its revenue from those fares.
He added: “We are investing millions of pounds to build the best railway Scotland has ever had, and that’s why we remain the best performing large operator in the UK.
“Our brand new electric trains are due to start running next year, and our high-speed trains will connect Scotland’s seven cities. The work we are doing will mean faster journeys, more seats and better services for our customers.”
The electric trains will be used in the Central Belt and ScotRail said the models they replace will add to trains available for use in the North-east.
High-speed trains are set to start running between Aberdeen and Edinburgh in May, though ScotRail said it does not know yet if that will make journeys quicker.
Track improvements between Aberdeen and Inverness taking place next year will mean a single line will become a dual one.
Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman, of the SNP, said: “No rail passenger ever wants to hear ticket prices are on the rise, but the SNP Scottish Government is using its powers to make sure this increase is not above inflation on off-peak ScotRail and ensuring the best deals are available in Scotland which will help commuters across the country.
“Our government have also introduced a number of initiatives to support passengers including offering a free week’s travel – equal to the cost of a rail fare freeze – which has been welcomed by season ticket holders.”
North-east MSP Lewis Macdonald, of Labour, said he was very disappointed with the news. He added: “We have already seen Aberdeen recording falls in the number of passengers using the trains.
“This increase in fares could give people another reason not to use the train.”
North-east MSP Liam Kerr, of the Conservatives, said: “Passengers will find it difficult to stomach this increase for rail travel in Scotland at a time when they are regularly forced to endure delays or reduced capacity on carriages.”