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Just Transition Commission: Strong welcome for support for bus in Scotland

Published 30 July 2020 by Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland has strongly welcomed today’s advice from the Just Transition Commission to Scottish Ministers to ‘Back buses and support the supply chain’ as part of a just, green recovery.

BYD ADL Enviro200EV (pure electric). Image courtesy of ADL.

Jess Pepper, external affairs manager for Transform Scotland said:

“We are glad to see the Commission urge action on existing Government commitments, as progress will benefit so many, and could help secure jobs in bus and coach at risk.

“The urgent roll out of the £500 million commitment to improve bus services across Scotland will improve lives and secure jobs in the bus and coach industry. Giving bus the priority on the motorways around Glasgow could be a game changer for those who make the smart choice to commute by bus, boosting services and jobs.

“It is fantastic that the Commission has recommended that iconic electric buses, made in Scotland, should be welcoming the world to this critical global event in Glasgow.”

Prioritising bus delivers public goods – reducing emissions, improving public health, tackling inequalities, creating green jobs in manufacturing and services, and strengthening the economy. The bus and coach industry is critical to Scotland, providing 13,500 jobs and worth £684 million to the Scottish Economy (DfT, 2018). Buses keep communities connected, even in crisis. As has been recommended, now they need government to promote positive messages for recovery.

The value of each of the key recommendations is set out below:

JTC recommendation Our comment
Recommendation 1: rapidly roll-out spending of the £500 million previously committed to prioritise buses, including measures to reallocate motorway and other road space to high occupancy vehicles such as buses.

Headline commitments to support bus with £500 million to improve services were celebrated in 2019. Almost a year on from a Programme for Government with urgent focus on the Climate Emergency none of these actions on bus have been progressed.

As progress will benefit so many, and with jobs in bus and coach at risk, we are glad to see the Commission urge action on these existing commitments.

Urgent roll out of the £500 million commitment to improve bus services across Scotland will improve lives and secure jobs in the bus and coach industry. Giving bus the priority on the motorways around Glasgow could be a game changer for those who make the smart choice to commute by bus, boosting services and jobs.

Where have seen action to prioritise spaces in 3-7 weeks from local authorities, we need to now see the same on motorways from Transport Scotland.

Recommendation 2: establish a nationwide bus scrappage scheme to replace older diesel buses with low emission and zero-emission buses. This proposal to establish a nationwide scrappage scheme presents a huge opportunity to revitalise buses and bus services across Scotland, to be replaced by a clean efficient fleet of buses made in Scotland securing jobs in manufacturing and opportunities to reduce emissions for all.
Recommendation 3: develop an enhanced and accelerated national plan for charging infrastructure for both public and private transport in the context of an overall strategy to support the electrification of road transport.

This call for a national plan for charging infrastructure is wise and timely. New fleets of electric buses, trains and light rail will require strategic thinking about our vision, and urgent planning with operators and energy providers now.

What do we choose? Plugs along our streets for those privileged to have electric cars or electric hubs for an inclusive active and sustainable transport with more active, less congested spaces, a system accessible to everyone with availability for electric taxis too.

Recommendation 4: procure a fleet of new electric buses for use at COP26 to showcase Scotland’s low and zero emission bus manufacture and stimulate greater international demand.

It is fantastic that the Commission has recommended that iconic electric buses, made in Scotland, should be welcoming the world to this critical global event in Glasgow.

Around the world, many cities have committed to zero emissions buses by 2025. These nations are investing in buses to meet ambitions to reduce emissions and achieve modal shift. The world is a market place.

Scotland absolutely should be demonstrating climate leadership at COP26 with electric buses made here as part of the solution, securing green jobs in the process. and sharing the benefits across the country.


Significant shift

The recommendations set out by the Just Transition Commission today highlight the opportunity for a shift, from an old story of pollution, social and environmental injustice towards a vision of an active and sustainable transport system that works for everyone, across Scotland. This recovery from the coronavirus pandemic must be just and green.

While 30% of households don’t have a car, decades of government spend and action have continued to prioritise private cars. Emissions from cars are the largest source of all our emissions from transport, exacerbating inequalities, producing pollution and congestion.

So it is extremely significant that the Just Transition Commission signal this needs to change:

“The opportunity to re-prioritise any existing transport spend, currently earmarked for increasing road capacity, and redirect it toward investments in low-carbon transport initiatives should be actively pursued.”

Like the coronavirus pandemic, the impacts of the climate emergency will affect those who can least afford them most. We must act urgently to mitigate these impacts.

Leadership with modal shift from private cars to sustainable transport, like clean buses, is urgently needed.

We cannot afford to lose jobs in bus, manufacturing or services, not when our health, economy and a safe, fair future is at stake and bus could help us deliver it.