Peak time rail fares in Scotland are likely to be permanently axed next Spring, according to senior Scottish Greens MSP.

Ross Greer, who helped negotiate the Bute House Agreement (BHA) between the SNP and the Scottish Greens, which saw the smaller party enter government for the first time in the UK, said he was "very confident" a temporary scheme to end higher fares at the busier times of day would become permanent.

First Minister Humza Yousaf announced in April that a six month pilot scrapping peak train fares would run from October to March next year.

The move will see ticket prices being lowered during commuter times in the morning and late afternoon during week days. There are no peak time fares during weekends.

"We are very confident that the pilot will be so successful that there will be no need to change it afterwards," Mr Greer, who is his party's spokesman on education, finance, constitution and external affairs, told the Herald on Sunday.

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"I am certainly optimistic that it will be successful and we will be able to make the move permanent. The basic arithmetic is that you increase the number of people using the railways and that makes up for income lost by reducing rail fares."

Train drivers’ union ASLEF had long called for the ending of peak rail fares having described them as a “tax on workers”.

A spokesman for ASLEF said last night: "Peak fares are a tax on workers and ending peak fares will help workers in the midst of a cost of living crisis and help ensure the Scottish Government meets its climate targets by encouraging people to use trains and make the shift from road to rail travel

"We very much hope Ross Greer is right: the Scottish Government needs to abolish peak fares permanently. It’s an absolute no brainer.”

In an interview with the Herald on Sunday, ahead of the second anniversary of the BHA next month, Mr Greer, who is in charge of liaising with deputy first minister Shona Robison over the ongoing pact, said the ending of peak time travel would have a bigger impact both on the public and on train travel than the renationalisation of Scotrail last year. 

The Herald:

Scottish Greens' MSP Ross Greer.   Photo PA.

He added that the move would at the worst be "cost neutral" to the public purse or at best generate more revenue as more people decided to travel by train.

"Re-nationalisation the railways was a major step, one we advocated for over many years, decades even and which has clearly been successful," he said.

"Removing peak time rail fares is a far far more significant change to our railways in terms of how people interact with them.

"This will have a far more tangible impact on an individual level in terms of how much money someone can save but also at a system level in terms of the number of people who we hope and believe it will bring onto the railways."

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He added: "The intention would be that at the worse it would be cost neutral and at best it would increase revenue because you bring more people onto the railway."

While ending peak train fares is not explicitly in the Bute House Agreement (BHA), it does commit the two parties to align "transport policy with our climate targets and the goal of reducing car/km by 20% by 2030." 

Mr Ross went on to say that the move to end peak train fares would contribute to the SNP/Greens commitment to reduce carbon emissions by encouraging people out of their cars.

He said: "For [the Scottish Greens] it's a win win of a policy and we are very much looking forward to seeing people benefit from it.

"This is a Green policy which we put into the budget and is one which went in. We are very optimistic it will be successful and we can make it permanent but when you're in government and you are doing something that hasn't been done before you need to act on a plan responsibly and that's why we have taken an approach that we will pilot it for six months."

Announcing the pilot to Holyrood in April, Mr Yousaf said he wanted to make Scotland’s public transport system “more accessible, available and affordable”.

“As an important part of that, I can confirm today that the six-month pilot to remove peak-time fares from ScotRail services will start in October of this year,” he told MSPs.

“The evidence from this pilot – and our wider Fair Fares review – will allow us to bring forward further targeted measures, from next year onwards, to ensure that the costs of transport are more fairly shared."

Mr Greer was speaking to The Herald on Sunday just over a week after the Scottish Government announced that one of the Bute House Agreement policies to restrict fishing in an additional 10% of Scottish seas by 2026 under a plan for highly protected marine areas would not be going ahead.

The Scottish Greens MSP said his party took an "co-operative" approach to government and it had recognised the strength of feeling in some communities against the policy.

Ahead of the decision to drop the policy in this parliament - with a new timetable now introduced for 2030 in line with a similar EU plan - the SNP had also faced a backlash among its MPs and MSPs. 

"No government gets everything through and it is up to governments to listen," said Mr Greer. 

He was asked if the Scottish Greens had decided to give the SNP slack over HPMAs because of the pressure they were under in fishing communities they represent.

"It was a joint decision made by the two parties. We tend not to approach the co-operation agreement from the perspective of one party going to another with ultimatums.

"At the start we were very keen to make sure the relationship between the two parties wasn't a transactional one, that can easily put you into opposing trenches and it can become quite confrontational," he said.

"Whereas what we are aiming for is a co-operative form of government. We had been discussing HPMAs on a regular basis, especially as the issue became more high profile."

He said the decision was made after meetings among Scottish Greens MSPs and also between Scottish Greens MSP and SNP cabinet secretary Mairi McAllan.

"I was in the room until evening, myself, Ariane Burgess, who is our main spokesperson, Mairi McAllan as the relevant cabinet secretary," he said.

"There were group discussions about how we take this forward, recognising the political position that we were and both the combination of very sincere concerns from some folk and a lot of misinformation from others.

"We were keen to secure the kind of marine protection that we all agreed is absolutely essential without getting ourselves needlessly stuck into a political battle that was entirely avoidable."