Passengers using public transport face paying twice as much for trips to and from the north-east than for journeys to the central belt.
And fears have now been raised over the impact this is likely to have on the region’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
We carried out research which found that in some cases, travelling between Aberdeen and London cost more than double the price of a trip between Edinburgh and the English capital.
The results have raised fears potential visitors could be discouraged from visiting the north-east.
Now providers – who operate services from the north-east across road, rail and air – are facing calls to “play fair” on the cost of getting to and from the region.
North-east ‘needs affordable connections’
The issue was previously raised by Gordon MP Richard Thomson, who has highlighted the high price of the Caledonian Sleeper rail service.
A standard journey from Aberdeen to London was priced at £240, but a passenger getting on the same train at Edinburgh would only pay £125 – a 92% increase.
“While people travelling between Aberdeen and London might expect to have to pay a little bit more than their central belt counterparts, it’s still hard to see a justification for some of the price differences that we’re seeing at present across road, rail and air travel,” Mr Thomson said.
“The north-east needs good, reliable and affordable transport connections for business and leisure travellers.
“While increased flights and increasing competition might help to bring prices down as we emerge from the pandemic, long-distance transport operators need to play fair on fares with north-east passengers and do their bit to support recovery too.”
Prices ‘based on demand’
Mr Thomson raised his concerns on social media, with a spokesman for Caledonian Sleeper insisting the price is calculated based on demand for the service.
“Our prices are based on availability so the prices that you are seeing suggest that there is far more availability on the Edinburgh service on that date,” he said.
“We are seeing very high demand on the Highlander during the holidays which is reflected in the prices.”
Hi Richard, our prices are based on availability so the prices that you are seeing suggest that there is far more availability on the Edinburgh service on that date. ^Barry
— Caledonian Sleeper (@CalSleeper) June 2, 2021
Extreme examples of the cost of travel between London and the north-east could also be found on other providers, although prices fluctuate due to demand and capacity.
Air travel was also more than twice as costly, with a flight from Aberdeen to Heathrow with British Airways costing £228 compared to £111 to travel from Edinburgh to Heathrow on the same day.
Even bus travel was disproportionately more expensive, with a Megabus coach from Aberdeen costing £57.20, while those boarding at Edinburgh would only pay £32.20.
However some providers had a much smaller price difference.
Rail operator LNER’s direct route from Aberdeen to London cost £87.50, with passengers joining at Edinburgh paying £74.
North-east ‘must be well-connected’
Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce has repeatedly called for services to be made cheaper.
The organisation’s policy manager Shane Taylor said: “Ensuring that the north-east remains well-connected is a top priority as we rebuild from Covid-19.
“The chamber has consistently argued for investment in our rail network to cut journey times and to make services more reliable and affordable.”
British Airways insisted its prices varied depending on demand as the cheapest fares sell more quickly.
A spokesman said: “These low prices are generally quickly snapped up and, as is the case with other airlines, the price of a ticket rises as the lowest fares sell out.”
A Megabus spokesman said: “Fares on all routes vary according to the time of booking and the popularity of journeys.
“Our services, including from Aberdeen, remain significantly better value than the train. This is despite the fact that our cross-border coach services are not in receipt of any financial support from either the UK or Scottish Governments during the pandemic, unlike cross border rail services.
“Current prices reflect the position that capacity on these services is significantly reduced due to social distancing restrictions.
“In addition, to allow for more regular cleaning of coaches, direct services are not running from Aberdeen to London at present, meaning customers have to change at Glasgow for their onward journey.”