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Free bus travel for under 19s supported, but questions on impact remain

Published 07 December 2020 by Transform Scotland

Photo by Ivan Zovko.

Transform Scotland has published its response to the Scottish Government ‘Free bus travel for people resident in Scotland aged under 19′ consultation, which closes today.

Marie Ferdelman, Transform policy officer, said:

“The cost of travel is an important factor to consider for many young people when travelling to their place of education, leisure activities or other appointments. A survey by the Scottish Youth Parliament of young people between the ages of 12 and 26, published in 2019, found that nearly a third of respondents paid more than £12 per week to travel to their place of education. This discounts any other trips that the respondents may be making and constitutes a significant share of many young peoples’ income. We therefore support the proposals to provide free bus travel to under 19s. Bus will provide opportunities for young people to travel and participate in activities that they might have otherwise been excluded from due to the affordability of travel.”

In our response, we also note that:

  • Bus companies should be left no better or worse off through this scheme.
  • The eligibility for free bus access should be established through existing cards such as the Young Scot card, as proposed by Transport Scotland.

While we are supportive of this proposal in principle, we also note that the consultation paper that Transport Scotland has produced only provides very limited information on the evidence base and expected outcomes of this policy. We have therefore asked Transport Scotland to produce additional supporting evidence that responds to the following questions:

  1. Rationale for age limit. What is the rationale for limiting the age to under 19s rather than under 25s as the definition of a young person?
  2. Rationale for mode coverage. In some areas of Scotland, public transport may consist of ferries, rail, metros or light rail instead of buses. How will these proposals affect young people living in these communities and what is the rationale for limiting the scheme to bus travel?
  3. Expected modal shift impacts. The consultation paper states that the proposals will encourage modal shift from private car to bus travel. How large is this impact expected to be?
  4. Expected wider benefits. For example, we would expect that there would be wider equalities / social inclusion benefits from the scheme, and longer-term benefits from establishing public transport use amongst young people as an alternative to car use. What work has been done by Transport Scotland to establish and monetise these benefits?
  5. Expected scheme costs. The consultation paper provides no information on the expected overall cost of the proposals. How much is the scheme expected to cost per year and how much of this cost is likely to be offset by reducing expenditure on existing schemes for free school travel or reduced fares for young people?