West Lothian Council could ditch concessionary rail scheme to save cash

Stock picture of a First train approaching Linlithgow Station.  Image by: Malcolm McCurrach
Stock picture of a First train approaching Linlithgow Station. Image by: Malcolm McCurrach

A concessionary rail fare scheme could be ditched as part of West Lothian Council’s drive to balance the books.

Departments across the council are looking for potential savings and West Lothian is the only authority in Scotland which offers a price cut for rail travel within its area.

Councillor David Dodds.

Councillor David Dodds.

The move would save £206,000. The council’s budget gap is £6.7 million.

The council’s Development and Transport Committee heard that the current contract with rail operator Abellio ends in March next year.

Jim Jack, head of Operational  Services, said that a fully integrated assessment of the plan would have to be undertaken if it is decided to  cut the scheme. He pointed out that increases in rail fares had eaten into the value of the concessionary fare scheme and that rail operators had similar schemes which offered better value to users.

Reports on the plans highlighted that those potentially most a risk from the cutback would be young people, the elderly and disabled, as well as those who rely on public transport.

The report suggested pointing current users to alternative railcard schemes such as those offered by ScotRail, and improving bus services.

Councillor Robert De Bold asked why only one saving had been identified. He added that he was disappointed that scheme was being considered to be cut.

Mr Jack said budgets had already been trimmed where they could: “Our options are pretty narrow. The concessionary rail scheme is a not statutory requirement,” he added.

Councillor David Dodds said: “This is not a measure that we would want to look at. This is a result of austerity. It is the under-funding of the council that has led us to this.”