Rail travel pilot signals discount for companions

ScotRail train at Tweedbank station.
ScotRail train at Tweedbank station.

Scottish Borders Council will soon be Scotland’s fourth local authority to offer discounted rail travel to the companions of visually impaired people.

Councillors have followed the example set by their counterparts in West Lothian, Fife and Strathclyde in offering a 50% discount through a companion travel scheme.

Currently Scotland’s national entitlement card offers free and discounted travel to cardholders who are visually impaired or blind. It means they can travel free of charge on all trains within Scotland and as far as Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed.

But companions are not included in this scheme meaning that those on the Borders Railway have had to pay full price for travel since it opened in 2015.

Tuesday’s decision by the executive committee, however, signalled a change to this, as councillors agreed to fund a one-year-long pilot companion rail scheme, at an estimated cost of £9,400.

Councillors agreed it will “help achieve equality and encourage social inclusion”.

While the exact cost of the trail will depend on how many people take up the scheme, officers believe it will be around £9,400 for the first year.

Councillors ruled out a different suggestion of a ‘nearly free’ offer which could have cost almost double that amount per year and would have asked companions to pay a 10p flat rate fare.

Kelso councillor Tom Weatherston said: “With the cost involved I think it is money very well spent. I welcome the trial period for a start as some people may try to jump on this scheme, so that’s something we need to watch.”