A Scottish Government scheme offering half-price ScotRail tickets applied for less than 1% of fares, according to new data.
The flagship scheme, announced shortly after the rail operator was nationalised, was announced as part of a package of measures to tackle the cost of living crisis by Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth in April.
Under the offer, tickets could be booked on select routes for around half the price of standard fares as long as the outward journey was made between May 9 and May 30 and a return by June 30.
However, a freedom of information request from Scottish Labor revealed that only 0.88% of tickets purchased during this period were eligible for the reduction, meaning that more than a million journeys remained at the strong price.
Opponents called the scheme “wacky”, but transport chiefs said the offer was simply the first of “many” to be introduced after the brand was nationalized earlier this year.
Rail passengers were hit with the biggest fare increase in a decade when a 3.8% increase was imposed in January for peak and off-peak travel.
Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon hailed the offer as a way to make train travel attractive as an “alternative way to travel without a car”.
However, it was quickly criticized for its very restrictive conditions, which prevented it from being applied to trains and to peak and weekend tickets purchased at the station.
Rhoda Grant, Chief Labor Whip, said: ‘This wacky ploy lays bare the gap between the SNP’s rotation and reality.
“People were in desperate need of a lifeline during the cost of living crisis, but this pitiful response is the best the SNP can muster.
“It was a pathetic attempt to chase a headline on the cheap – not a serious attempt to fight fraudulent fares and support our railways.”
She added: ‘It is a damning symbol of the SNP’s lack of ambition for our state railways, which have fallen into chaos due to the SNP’s relentless incompetence.’
Dutch company Abellio was stripped of its two-year contract to operate the franchise in early March 2022 after the Scottish government exercised a break clause in the deal.
ScotRail was fully nationalized on April 1 – weeks before several rounds of industrial action brought the network to its knees.
Drivers’ union Aslef is still considering a revised salary offer from the Scottish Government after it withdrew overtime and rest days in a dispute over an initial 2.2% raise described as “paltry”.
Transport Scotland said a review of fares was “progressing”, adding that they were “committed” to ensuring the rail network was affordable for passengers.
A spokesperson said: “As we stated at the time, this promotion was one of the first measures ScotRail was implementing to reduce the cost of rail travel on a short-term promotional basis.
“As a result, around 8,000 trips were made that would not otherwise have been made.
“This is one of many such offerings that we can expect to see from a state-owned and operated ScotRail. We are committed to ensuring that rail fares are affordable for passengers and taxpayers across Scotland and progressing our review of fair fares to ensure a sustainable and integrated approach to public transport fares.