A framework for franchising of bus routes by local authorities to be established in new Transport Bill
FORTHCOMING legislation from the Scottish Government will create a framework to allow local authorities to take control of bus services.
The provisions, expected to be contained within the Transport Bill in the second half of this parliamentary term, come as the Scottish Government prepares a public bid to take over the running of Scotrail.
Recent months have seen Scottish Government policy move towards public control options due to continued dysfunction in much of Scotland’s privately controlled transport infrastructure, with complaints of soaring costs on train and bus routes and a barrage of acrimony over chaotic train services.
Speaking to CommonSpace, transport minister Humza Yousaf said: “We will bring forward a Bill in this Parliament which will have a focus on setting the framework for improving bus services. We will also look at whether local transport authority powers can be further improved and what additional support and guidance might be helpful to them.
“Where appropriate, we will ensure that local authorities have the framework to pursue franchising of bus services.
“This Government remains committed to supporting bus services.
“We are concerned about the state of the bus industry, with patronage that has been continually declining since at least the 1960s, which shows that the decline was not caused by deregulation.
“The decline is not uniform across Scotland, indeed some areas have seen stability or even growth, whereas others have had double figures in percentage decline.
“Therefore we do not see wholesale re-regulation as a panacea but we do want better partnership working between operators and transport authorities and the Transport Bill is an opportunity to shape that.”
Bus fares have leapt forward by 18 per cent in the last five years, yet both the number of routes and the number of journeys undertaken by Scottish buses has declined by 21 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.
The Unite union, which organises many bus drivers, has been agitating for reform of Scottish bus services with the Haud the Bus campaign.
“This Government remains committed to supporting bus services.” Humza Yousaf
Cautiously welcoming the moves towards, Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “Our members in the bus industry are struggling to provide a decent service to the public. That’s not their fault – it’s the fault of a deregulated system that allows too many bus companies to put profit before people. That’s why we started our Haud the Bus campaign, calling on the Scottish Parliament to bring our buses back under public control.
“We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to making public regulation and ownership of buses part of the Transport Bill. But it’s a cautious welcome – we’ll obviously have to wait and see what the proposals are in detail. And we pledge to carry on our campaign, and continue to make the case for our bus services to be under common ownership, so that the people of Scotland can get the world-class bus services they deserve.”
Picture courtesy of Bill Richards
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