The Scottish Government has been urged to make the abolition of peak train fairs permanent, with unions and environmental groups warning that their return would be "a retrograde step of historic proportions".

ScotRail was nationalised in April 2022 when Abellio failed to meet performance criteria, with then then minister for transport Jenny Gilruth pledging to create "an affordable, sustainable, customer focused rail passenger service".

Peak fares, which see prices rise at the most busy times, were scrapped on a trial basis from October last year, with the scheme extended by a further three months in December until June 28.

At the same time the Scottish Government announced that fares would rise by 8.7% from April a hike which Scottish Labour called "eye-watering".

So far there has been no commitment to permanently scrap peak tickets, with the cheapest 'super off-peak' fares also scrapped when the scheme came in.

Read More: ScotRail peak fare pilot scheme to be extended but commuters face ticket price hike

Now Scotland's four rail unions, the STUC and a number of environmental groups have written an open letter to transport secretary Fiona Hyslop urging the government to commit to making the removal of peak fares permanent.

ASLEF, the RMT, Unite, TSSA, STUC, Stop Climate Chaos, Transform Scotland, Friends of the Earth Scotland and the Just Transition Partnership said more expensive fares at busy times amounted to "an unfair tax on workers".

Restoring peak fares was described as "a retrograde step that would send exactly the wrong message at the wrong time", harming both workers in a cost-of-living crisis and Scotland's commitment to meeting its climate targets.

The Herald: .. ScotRail .. ..

Holyrood has pledged to reduce car kilometres travelled by 20% by 2030.

Jim Baxter, ASLEF Executive Council Member for Scotland, said: “In our Vision for Scotland’s Railways the rail unions made clear that ending this additional tax on workers is critical to shift people from road to rail and help Scotland meet its own targets to reduce road travel and meet our climate change targets, as well as helping to address inequality by putting more money in people’s pockets.

“We were delighted when the Government listened to us and introduced a pilot to scrap peak fares. This has helped rail passengers and also helped increase the numbers of people using our trains after the shock the rail industry suffered because of the covid pandemic.

Read More: ScotRail workers to strike over on-call working arrangements

“Ending the pilot and restoring peak fares would be a retrograde step of historic proportions and send the wrong signal at exactly the wrong time.

"We implore the Scottish Government and do the right thing and scrap peak fares permanently.”

Mike Robinson, Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland also said: "Our transport system generates more harmful emissions than any other sector, and there has been very little progress to reduce this in recent years.

"If we are serious about tackling the climate crisis, along with reducing inequality and improving health and wellbeing, it's a no-brainer that using public transport should be cheaper than driving. But over recent decades, public transport fares have risen, while car use has become cheaper in real terms.

"We warmly welcomed the pilot scheme to remove peak train fares, which signalled a positive step towards rebalancing costs in favour of public transport. Reverting to expensive tickets would be a hugely retrograde decision, and be bad news for workers, passengers and the climate."