Government hails 'free week' of travel for ScotRail passengers
A "free week" of rail travel funded by the Scottish Government will save some passengers more than a fare freeze as an annual rail fares increase comes into force on Monday.
An annual increase on regulated peak fares of up to a capped value of 1.9% means the cost of an annual ticket between Glasgow and Edinburgh will increase by £72.
But the £3m fare initiative to give one week's free travel to monthly and annual season ticket holders gives a one-off saving of £95.50 for commuters on this route.
The Scottish Government said their initiative would be worth more in cash terms than a fares freeze for commuters with a monthly or annual ticket.
However, Scottish Labour said their own plans for a fares freeze, rejected by the government, would have benefited every passenger.
ScotRail will set a specific period in 2017 when the free week will be available.
The company has faced heavy criticism for late and cancelled trains, with campaigners calling for Dutch parent firm Abellio to be stripped of the franchise to run Scotland's railways.
Transport minister Humza Yousaf said: "2016 was a challenging year for the rail industry with delays and disruption impacting on commuters' day to day rail travel.
"The Scottish Government knew this was simply not good enough, so took steps to ensure ScotRail addressed this by introducing a 249-point Performance Improvement Plan which we are now monitoring closely.
"We are confident ScotRail can and will deliver the kind of services passengers deserve.
"We want to reward passengers for their continued custom and patience while we deliver our extensive programme of improvements, and so I have announced a £3m fare initiative in 2017 which will give one week's free travel to monthly and annual season ticket holders, worth more in cash terms than a fares freeze."
He added: "We have invested twice as much per head in the rail network in Scotland than the UK Government - some £7bn in rail since 2007 - but I want to do more to make rail a more accessible, attractive, and reliable transport option.
"That's why we are investing a further £5bn to 2019 in a package of rail improvements that will deliver longer, greener trains on our flagship routes, new stations, new track upgrades, more seats, and more services - that will truly transform Scotland's railways."
ScotRail are also developing a set of fare promotions throughout the year for weekly season ticket holders as well as less frequent rail travellers.
Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said: "It is good to see after pressure from Scottish Labour that the SNP has agreed to some targeted rail fare reductions this year.
"Labour called for a fare freeze for 2017. Unlike the SNP's plan, this would benefit every single passenger.
"After all the delays and disruption people have had to put up with on the railways, no passenger should face a fare hike when they return to work this week.
"The bottom line is that fares will still rise to record levels this year for the vast majority of passengers. It is insulting to ask passengers to pay a penny more for the shocking ScotRail service they have been receiving."