Greens push for legally binding target on bus service use

Caitlin Logan

Greens to put forward motion to ensure Transport Bill reverses decline in bus use

THE SCOTTISH GREEN PARTY will urge MSPs to support a legally-binding target on bus use as part of the Scottish Government’s upcoming Transport Bill.

The motion, which will be put forward for a vote in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, aims to address a decline in bus use, which Green MSPs have linked to falling satisfaction with service provision.

Official statistics released last month revealed that the number of bus journeys dropped by 43m in the last five years – a reduction of 10 per cent.

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A recent Citizens Advice Scotland survey indicated that two in three people were dissatisfied with the frequency of local bus services, that over half said the services were late and 58 per cent said that they were poor value for money.

John Finnie MSP, transport spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, commented ahead of the debate: “Three-quarters of all public transport journeys are made by bus, so these issues are of huge concern to millions of people across Scotland.

“For those who need to use buses, they can be expensive and unreliable, while many more people are put off as they take too long, or there’s no direct service, or no service at all.

“Bus fares have risen faster than inflation, and passengers often have to put up with a very poor waiting environment and very poor customer information.

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“The situation has to change, and by bringing this debate we hope all parties will agree to work for affordable, reliable bus services.”

Finnie added: “Ministers have said the forthcoming Transport Bill will empower local authorities to improve the situation, and certainly local public ownership is one option I’d welcome but we risk closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. We need the Scottish Government to commit to a usage target.

“Successive governments have been happy to spend millions on motorways and ministers are never shy to hail the growth in our railways and our airports but they have neglected bus users. Now is their chance to reverse the decline.”

Scottish Labour will make the case in the debate for municipal ownership and re-regulation of buses through a number of specified proposals.

The party’s transport spokesperson Colin Smyth MSP said: “Labour will fight tooth and nail to ensure our plans for municipal ownership and radical re-regulation of our buses are at the heart of the forthcoming Transport Bill.

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“Re-regulation is needed to protect life line services and to stop bus companies cherry picking the most profitable routes. But we should also use re-regulation to reverse the current race to the bottom for staff terms and conditions, put a stop to rip-off fares – ending the postcode lottery that exists for young people and concessionary travel and protecting the bus pass for those over 60.

“Labour will also press for the lifting of the ban on councils establishing new municipal bus companies and for tighter rules on consultation before bus routes can be changed.”

Campaigners from Get Glasgow Moving, Friends of the Earth Scotland, Unison Scotland and Unite Scotland have all backed calls for common ownership of bus services, in order to move the sector towards a public service model and away from a profit-driven approach. 

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “The forthcoming Transport Bill aims to give local authorities the flexibility to pursue partnership working, local franchising, or running their own buses, allowing local authorities to better respond to local needs.

“We are also looking to improve the information available to passengers so that bus travel is more accessible and attractive.”

Picture courtesy of Kevin Boyd

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