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Transport Bill a “missed opportunity” for buses

Published 02 October 2018 by Transform Scotland

Call for Bill to tackle the root causes of the decline in bus patronage

Transform Scotland [1] has today (Tuesday 2 October) published its evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee on the Government’s Transport Bill.  The Bill is now being scrutinised by the Parliament’s Committees, and Transform is giving oral evidence to the REC Committee on Wednesday this week.

Transform’s evidence highlights the missed opportunities in the Government’s Transport Bill to tackle the major challenges affecting the decline in bus patronage. The evidence paper is available at:


Chris Day, Policy Advisor at Transform Scotland, said:

“The Bill is a missed opportunity, as it fails to tackle the root causes of decline in bus patronage, instead focussing on the ownership and control of bus services. The Bill also fails to provide Local Authorities with suitable powers for implementing road traffic demand management.”

Transform Scotland’s main concern is that the Bill completely overlooks the critical factors in declining bus patronage, such as:

* Congestion and its impact on journey times, reliability and costs.
* The impact of parking
* Lifestyle changes e.g. online & out-of-town shopping, and potential future disruptive technologies.
* The relative low cost of car use.
* Declining revenue from government, against a background of rising costs.

Chris continued:

“While public ownership of buses could lead to a reversal in the decline of bus patronage, there appears not to be an evidence base that would guarantee this to be the case. Of approximately 15 publicly-owned operators in the UK which operate multiple routes, only 3 appear to have stabilised or grown patronage. Equally, some privately-owned operators have grown their market. Insofar as common factors have been identified, they appear to be local highway policies that benefit buses, and high quality management.”

Transform Scotland suggests a range of measures including:

* Making Local Transport Strategies mandatory for Local Authorities.
* Streamlining the process for certifying bus model/camera enforcement combinations.
* Extending decriminalised regimes to allow traffic attendants to enforce a range of bus lanes.

Regarding road traffic demand management, Chris said:

“The Bill fails to bring forward any measures to assist Local Authorities in managing the demand of car use, and as such represents another significant missed opportunity in the Bill.”

Transform supports the inclusion in the Bill of allowing councils to legislate for Workplace Parking Levies (WPLs), to reduce the use of private cars in urban areas, while increasing the use of public and active travel.  WPLs have a proven track record from the significant increase in the use of public transport, walking and cycling, emission reduction of 33% and revenue raising of £25 million for Nottingham Council since its introduction in 2012.



[1] Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland is the national alliance for sustainable transport, bringing together organisations from the private, public and voluntary sectors — see <> for details.

[2] Transform Scotland evidence paper
This is available at <>.

[3] ‘Getting the Bill Right’ report
In June, Transform Scotland published the ‘Getting the Bill Right’ report. This goes into our views on the Transport Bill in more detail: <>.