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Buses consultation “a missed opportunity” to tackle bus decline

Published 05 December 2017 by Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland has today responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on local bus services.

The response highlights concerns that the consultation misses an opportunity to address the factors underlying the long-term decline in bus use. Failing to introduce legislation which tackles these factors risks a further decline in both patronage and services across Scotland.

Whilst Transform Scotland does not disagree that local authorities (if they see fit) should be given more powers over bus services in their area, the case for and against such a move needs to be explored in further detail.

Future legislation to improve bus services must be measured against six tests which underlie the decline in bus patronage over the past 50 years:

  1. Congestion and its impact on journey times, reliability and costs
  2. The impact of parking
  3. The impact of lifestyle changes e.g. online and out of town shopping, and potential future disruptive technologies (e.g. driverless cars)
  4. The relative low cost of car use
  5. Declining revenue from government, against a background of rising costs
  6. Declining revenue from passengers

Chris Day, Policy Advisor at Transform Scotland, led the preparation of Transform’s response. Chris commented:

“There’s a danger that the focus on reorganising bus services rather than tackling the day-to-day problems that they face represents a missed opportunity. In our response, we highlight such issues as the poor maintenance of existing bus lanes, and the systematic failure to enforce bus priority. Whilst existing static bus lane cameras are useful, these either need to be much more numerous, or to be complemented by on-bus cameras. Decriminalisation of the enforcement of bus lanes may also need to be considered, so they can be enforced by parking attendants.”

Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, said:

The Scottish Government has intervened in the price of ferry travel (i.e. through the Road Equivalent Tariff) and has significantly grown ferry usage; and argues that intervening in the price of air travel (i.e. through a proposed cut to Air Departure Tax) will significantly grow air travel (although Transform Scotland disagrees with its approach to the latter). It cannot therefore have any objection in principle to intervening in the price of bus travel.”

Our full response can be found here.