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The Scottish Association for Public Transport — February member profile

Published 22 February 2022 by SAPT

SAPT member profile for Transform Scotland’s February newsletter

The Scottish Association for Public Transport (originally the Scottish Railway Development Association) was founded 60 years ago to oppose Dr Beeching’s proposed rail closures. If these had been implemented, there would have been no railways north or west of Inverness, or in south west Scotland.

Since then, our campaigning has helped reverse many of the closures that did take place including Airdrie to Bathgate, Stirling to Alloa, the Borders Railway and the Larkhall, Argyle, Maryhill and Paisley Canal lines around Glasgow.

By the early 1970s it was becoming evident that too many of Scotland’s strategic planning decisions were being driven by a car and lorry based orthodoxy. SAPT members decided to refocus the organisation by changing its title to the current name and redefining its purpose to be one of promoting the advantages of an integrated approach to public transport. Since then our campaigning has embraced all modes of public transport, both in a national context and in specific locations.

Today, public transport is again under threat. Rail services, after decades of growth, are threatened by a collapse in usage as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Bus services are being withdrawn due to rising costs and a shortage of drivers. The delayed delivery of new ferries is causing frequent cancellations. But public transport has a vital role to play in enabling Scotland to cut car traffic and meet its carbon reduction targets.

SAPT has always aimed to foster good informal relationships with transport operators and local and central Government. Our experience of using transport networks, including in other countries, and our independence, means we are able to make valued contributions to the planning needed to address changing patterns of use whether they relate to ticketing, timetables, tourism, marketing or other aspects of service.

If public transport is to be successful in tempting users away from cars it needs to provide seamless end-to-end journeys. Bus, rail, coach and ferry services must become more integrated with easier transfer between modes and joined-up fares, timetabling and publicity. We are currently working on a number of specific proposals for bus and rail integration in rural areas around Scotland.

Public transport in Scotland receives a significant amount of public funding. We believe that the best way to get value from this is to encourage synergy between transport modes and transport operators rather than competition. We should try to learn more from countries like Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and Germany.