A new report has found that 22,000 jobs could be created in operating public transport systems in Scotland with the right investment – that means almost doubling the current number of jobs in the sector. On top of that, the investment could create hundreds of thousands more jobs indirectly in areas like manufacturing and infrastructure construction. 

Investing in public transport

We commissioned the report, On the Move, to find out how much investment will be needed in public transport to meet the government’s commitment to cut car travel by 20%. The research also uncovered the scale of what Scotland stands to gain from this investment; beyond reducing emissions and creating jobs, investment on that scale would have huge benefits in public health and education.

‘On the Move’ estimates that an additional £1.6 billion per year investment is needed to meet the Scottish Government’s target of reducing car traffic by 20%. This would more than pay for itself in benefits.

For example, a better public transport system would reduce air pollution meaning fewer people with asthma and respiratory conditions, saving money for the NHS.

Traffic congestion leads to a huge loss in productivity, so lower levels of traffic congestion means everyone gets to work on time. Plus a huge benefit of significantly expanding (and restoring) our public transport network would be connecting people with employment and education opportunities; a massive boost to the economy.

The need for a better public transport system

Transport is Scotland’s biggest source of climate emissions, so the shift in the way we travel is a vital part of taking action on the climate emergency. Scotland needs to change around 6 billion kilometres travelled by car to public transport (and walking and cycling) per year by 2030 to meet our climate commitments – in transport terms, 2030 is right around the corner. 

The report shows that to achieve it, we’ll need an 80% increase in bus and tram travel and a more than doubling (110%) of rail travel in that time period. Although this sounds ambitious, there are many examples which show that with the right investment and support, significant increases in public transport use can be achieved in relatively short periods.

In Scotland, a quarter of households don’t have access to a car. This rises to a half in our biggest cities. The current system doesn’t work for a lot of people, so proper investment will bring down social isolation and inequality at the same time as getting cars off the road.

Along with investment, we need to address the big disparities in the costs of different kinds of transport. Motoring costs have been kept artificially low for years while bus fares rise above inflation every year. This imbalance is taking us in the wrong direction. If we make public transport cheaper than cars, we can create jobs, strengthen our economy and meet our climate commitments.

Just transition for transport

This is such an important discussion to be happening now, because we know the Scottish Government is looking at what a ‘just transition’ means for the transport sector. In other words, how will we make sure that people and communities don’t lose out as we make a rapid and dramatic shift to more sustainable transport.

That’s why looking at the job numbers is key: lowering car use offers huge benefits to the economy. We’ll need a lot more workers in transport, both direct jobs with passengers, but also in things like vehicle manufacturing and expanding the rail network. ‘On the Move’ is a roadmap for a just transition in transport and we’ll be making sure Government ministers read this report’s findings.