SCOTRAIL has announced that students travelling home over Christmas will benefit from a fifty per cent discount on tickets from Scotland’s Railway.

A mass testing programme of students planning to head home over the festive period is currently under way, in a bid to limit risk of transmission and provide reassurance to those travelling home to their families and loved ones.

And now students will only need to pay half price for travel, on any ScotRail service until December 24.

The train operator run by Dutch firm Abellio hopes the move will help students worried about getting home to their families under the current coronavirus travel restrictions.

Students will first need to record a negative Covid-19 test before travelling, which could make it difficult to book specific train services due to testing appointments and the time spent awaiting results.

However, ScotRail is offering a flexible, open-return ticket which will remain valid for one month after purchase in a bid to allow most students to return to their studies in January after another negative coronavirus test with minimal hassle.

All a student needs to do is turn up at a staffed ticket office with their ID, jump on board and head home to their loved ones.

Students will be able to purchase the discounted tickets up until 24 December, which would mean they would have until 23 January to use the return portion of the journey.

Lesley Kane, ScotRail Commercial Director, said: “Students are going through a hard enough time just now trying to keep up with their studies while worrying about catching coronavirus and balancing their finances.

“We think this half price deal on tickets is the best gift we can give them before Christmas and we’re sure it will be very popular amongst students who want to get home to see loved ones at this special family time of the year.

“We are confident ScotRail will be able to carry all passengers safely over the festive period by observing the five rules for safer travel, including wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distancing.”

The Scottish Government is currently working with universities across the country and the UK Government’s testing programme to offer free lateral flow testing, which can provide results in 30 minutes.

However, a “surge” in travel is expected over the five-day Christmas period as families form their festive bubbles with loved ones.

And it is feared that the temporary easing of coronavirus restrictions, which will allow three households to mix in a bubble from December 23 to 27, will lead to trains, roads and coaches being busier as many people look to make the most of the opportunity to spend Christmas with family and friends.

Coach operator National Express said it is increasing its services to meet demand in the run-up to Christmas.

Meanwhile, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has said it expects a “surge” in passengers over the five days.

General secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT supports the railway in playing its role in ensuring that people can see their loved ones this Christmas and I will be seeking urgent discussions with all the train companies and Government to ensure that this is carefully and properly planned to protect the safety of both workers and passengers.‎”

However, Rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said that there is “no concern” of overcrowding on train carriages, while thousands of services are expected to run daily to cope with more passengers.

And the AA has said it was not “overly concerned” that traffic congestion could occur on roads, suggesting many families had cancelled plans to spend Christmas together.

Edmund King, AA president, said: “Two fifths of drivers who had already cancelled festive travel plans may have been wary of risk to their loved ones – or perhaps secretly happy to avoid a visit to the in-laws.”