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Better off or a raw deal? How Elgin ScotRail fares compare to Central Belt

The Press and Journal has compared journeys of a similar length to find out where is cheaper.

ScotRail train at Elgin station.
ScotRail provides connections from Elgin to Aberdeen, Inverness and further afield. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

ScotRail has revealed train fares across the country have “no direct relationship” between the price and distance travelled.

The development came as the Press and Journal revealed tickets from Inverness can be double what passengers in the Central Belt pay.

It has prompted rail campaigners to repeat calls for a rethink about how the cost of journeys is calculated.

The Press and Journal has compared ScotRail ticket fares from Elgin to see how they compare to those in the Central Belt.

Are Elgin ScotRail fares more expensive than Central Belt?

The Press and Journal took the cheapest return fares from Elgin and compared them to journeys of similar length from Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The prices were then compared to the shortest driving distances between the stations to calculate the cost per mile.

And the figures revealed that while ScotRail fares are more expensive than some Central Belt journeys they are actually comparable, and in some cases cheaper, than others.

  • Edinburgh – Perth: £21.60 for 43.2 miles = 50p
  • Glasgow – Airdrie: £5.90 for 12 miles = 49.2p
  • Edinburgh – Kirkcaldy: £12.10 for 27 miles = 44.8p
  • Elgin – Forres: £5.80 for 13 miles = 44.6p
  • Elgin – Inverness: £15.70 for 38 miles = 41.3p
  • Edinburgh – Bathgate: £8.20 for 21 miles = 39p
  • Glasgow – Ayr: £13.40 for 35 miles – 38.3p
  • Elgin – Aberdeen: £23.90 for 65miles = 36.7p
  • Glasgow – Greenock: £8.80 for 24 miles = 36.7p
  • Edinburgh – Glasgow: £16.20 for 46 miles = 35.2p
  • Edinburgh – North Berwick: £8.80 for 27 miles = 32.6p

Why Elgin to Aberdeen trains can be cheaper than similar journeys

One area where Elgin commuters are getting a better deal on ScotRail fares than other areas is on journeys to Aberdeen.

Day returns are available on trips between Moray and the Granite City for a cheaper price of £23.90, while open returns that allow return travel over the next month cost £36.20.

Cheaper day returns are also available between Inverness and Perth.

Passengers getting off train at Elgin station.
Trains from Elgin to Aberdeen are cheaper per mile than similar journeys. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

However, trips between Aberdeen and Dundee and some other cities in Scotland do not have cheaper day return prices available – making commuting more expensive per mile between them.

  • Edinburgh – Perth: £28.00 for 43 miles = 65.1p (open return)
  • Glasgow – Dundee: £47.80 for 80 miles = 59.8p (open return only)
  • Aberdeen – Dundee: £38.30 for 66 miles = 58.0p (open return only)
  • Elgin – Aberdeen: £36.20 for 65miles = 55.7p (open return)
  • Edinburgh – Perth: £21.60 for 43 miles = 50.2p (day return)
  • Elgin – Aberdeen: £23.90 for 65miles = 36.7p (day return)
  • Inverness – Perth: £39.50  for 112 miles = 35.3p (open return)
  • Inverness – Perth: £34.00 for 112 miles = 30.4p (day return)

How ScotRail fares are calculated

ScotRail has stressed its fares are not set on a per mile basis with the current rates all set when British Rail operated the network prior to 1997.

Transport Scotland now has power to control prices after the operator was nationalised in 2022.

Claire Dickie, ScotRail’s commercial director, said: “The fares in Scotland have never been set on a per mile basis, and while there are some differences in certain parts of the country, there is no direct relationship between fares and miles travelled.

ScotRail train at Elgin station.
Current ScotRail fare rates were set decades ago. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“The revenue generated from fares is essential to allowing ScotRail to run a service which is safe, reliable, and green, and reduce the burden on the public purse but we know that what customers want is a simple, affordable, and easy to understand fare system, and we are doing everything we can to deliver that.

“The current off-peak all-day trial is an example of a bold initiative that is reducing the cost of rail travel, and encouraging more people to travel by train.”

Read more about ScotRail services from Elgin

Conversation