A NORTH Ayrshire councillor has said there can't be any complaints about the recent change of train timetable affecting Largs Academy pupils living in West Kilbride "if they don't pay the fare".

Councillor Tom Marshall spoke out after statistics revealed that at least 90 per cent of school children travelling between West Kilbride and Largs have been dodging the fare - and refusing to pay when approached by ScotRail staff.

Service director David Simpson has told local councillors that between 125-135 pupils travel regularly by train each day but only a minority of students pay.

In a letter sent to local councillors, David said: "We understand 125-135 travel regularly by train each day. 

"Unfortunately, only a minority of students buy tickets. Ticket sales data from January to May 2023 shows only one child weekly season ticket is being sold each week. At £11, this is the most convenient and cheapest ticket for students travelling every day as a day return is £3.05.

"For the 71 school term days in the period January 10 to May 5, the number of child tickets sold covered fewer than 700 one way journeys. Assuming 90 students per day who travel are eligible for child fares, this equates to 12,780 journeys actually being made over this period.

"For those 16 and over, sales of tickets using a Young Scot discount are at a smaller proportion than the child tickets.

"We have used all ticket sales across the term time in our analysis therefore some of these journeys will have been made for purposes other than travelling to school. At least 90 per cent of students travelling on this route are doing so without paying.

 

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Only a minority of students pay on West Kilbride to Largs trip, say ScotRailOnly a minority of students pay on West Kilbride to Largs trip, say ScotRail (Image: Newsquest)

"On a typical school day, this means our retail systems are showing an average of 13 students travelling between West Kilbride and Largs, rather than 130. 

"Ticket issuing facilities are available at West Kilbride and Largs station as well as on train from our staff. Mobile tickets can be purchased before you travel. The key issue is that students are refusing to purchase tickets when asked to by staff. 

ScotRail revealed that reasons given include "I have no money" to "I don’t pay".

David continued: "Along with this is constant low level anti-social behaviour disrupting other customers such as littering, playing music, shouting, and crowding other customers. These behaviours, including refusing to buy a ticket have been witnessed by our senior managers.

"We recognise the new timetable from May 21 will be considerably less convenient for students travelling between West Kilbride and Largs than the existing services and apologise for this. There is a good bus service  for those who do not wish to travel at the new times. 

"We have contacted Stagecoach to advise of the potential increase in numbers who may wish to use their service – students with an appropriate national entitlement card can travel for free on the bus. ScotRail will assist the school in communicating transport options to parents and students in the coming week.

"It is not possible for ScotRail to change our timetable in the short term however we will work in conjunction with the school and other public transport operators to understand if better arrangements for those travelling out of catchment can be put in place for the start of the new school year in August."

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Former Largs Academy teacher Tom MarshallFormer Largs Academy teacher Tom Marshall (Image: North Ayrshire Conservatives)

Councillor Tom Marshall responded: "I am aware of that there has been a number of the West Kilbride pupils travelling without a ticket. As far as I am concerned, they have no argument about the change of timetable if they don’t pay a fare. 

"As a former teacher at Largs Academy, I can well remember the days when the West Kilbride parents sought a placing request for their child and instead of going to Ardrossan Academy opted to come to Largs. In these days they funded a private bus service but that has fallen by the wayside over the years. I totally agree that it would be unacceptable for them to travel on the Stagecoach service with other paying passengers."

North Ayrshire Council has been approached for comment.