RAIL commuters face inflation- busting fare hikes in the New Year but with a vow off-peak prices will stay the same for two years.

Passengers who use ScotRail services were told they will have to stump up more for their train tickets with price rises of between 20p to just over £3.

Scotland's biggest rail operator announced it is capping regulated fares at 3.9% just hours before the Scottish Parliament was told that the new off-peak fares will stay the same for the next two years.

The other price hikes will also be frozen until ScotRail's franchise ends in 2015, so long as the retail price index (RPI) stays below an annual rate of 3.5%. It has risen 12% in the last four years.

Holyrood was also promised that rises to peak fares in January 2014 and 2015 will not exceed the RPI.

A ScotRail spokesman said: "We have worked hard to keep the increase down to a level that continues to offer value for money.

"At the same time, our approach enables us to continue to invest in improvements including more and faster services and better facilities at stations and on trains."

Virgin Trains – like every other UK rail operator – is also set to hike fares from January 2. The advanced single fare from Glasgow Central to London Euston is going up by a £1 to £21. A spokesman said: "The most popular ticket type – the off-peak return – goes up to £126.70 from £121.70.

Confirmation came on a day it was established that Virgin Trains could potentially run the West Coast franchise until Novem-ber 2014, after a row with the government over its tendering process. The spokesman added: "This will allow us to introduce the new hourly service to and from Glasgow and London.

Extra Pendolino trains will provide an additional 1750 seats a day on services for Glasgow and, from Monday, two extra trains will run in each direction between the city and London.

Elsewhere it was revealed that some season tickets in England will be going up by nearly 6.5%.

gordon.thomson@ eveningtimes.co.uk