Campaigners praised a move that could deliver a step-change in public transport, as councils were given the powers to run their own bus services in competition with private operators. On Wednesday morning, the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy Economy and Connectivity Committee passed two amendments during Stage 2 of the Transport Bill.

The first amendment, tabled Scottish Labour, will allow every council to run bus services. The second, by the Scottish Government, will allow councils to set up arms length bus companies, like the Lothian Buses example. Both received support from public transport campaigners.

Statistics released yesterday showed that transport remains Scotland’s largest emitting sector in terms of climate emissions, with road traffic our biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.  Meanwhile, bus passengers journey have fallen by 100 million in the last 10 years.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Air Pollution Campaigner Gavin Thomson said,

“This is a great step forward for public transport in Scotland. Private bus operators have failed in many areas of the country, leaving us with declining bus passenger numbers, ever-increasing fares, and a fragmented network that serves company greed rather than community needs. Giving Councils the powers to run their own buses allows us to re-imagine what our public transport should look like.

“This is just the first step. Councils will need support and funding in order to deliver the much-needed improvements in our transport system. Scotland currently spends billions on new roads every year, favouring car drivers but only making tiny gains in journey times. Public cash for pointless new roads should be diverted to public transport, to help Councils set up comprehensive, affordable networks that can benefit everyone.”

“By increasing bus use we can cut air pollution and congestion, reduce climate emissions, and make our towns and cities better places to spend time. We hope Councils will look carefully at these new powers and work with Government to boost bus routes and passenger numbers in their areas.

Get Glasgow Moving campaigner Ellie Harrison said,

“There is huge inequality in Scotland’s bus network. In Edinburgh, where publicly-owned Lothian Buses run most of the routes, fares are just £1.70, they’re introducing an electric fleet and passenger numbers are increasing. Meanwhile in Glasgow, where private companies cherry-pick their favoured routes, fares are £2.40 and passenger numbers are falling dramatically.

“This is a huge chance to get the public transport system that passengers want. A publicly-owned bus company for Glasgow could start taking over routes one-by-one, and use profits from busy routes to reinstate essential bus services axed by First and Stagecoach.”

“Buses are vital public services, which provide both social and environmental goods. They are not a ‘market’ and should not ‘compete’ with trains, Subway, trams or other forms of sustainable transport. These new powers are fantastic and now we need the investment to follow, that would provide a comprehensive, integrated network so that everyone can get where they need to go easily and cheaply and with the lowest environmental impact.”

Notes to Editors

1. Majority of Scots back public ownership of bus services, new poll finds (July 2018) https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/12982/majority-scots-back-public-ownership-bus-services-new-poll-finds

2. Number of bus journeys in Scotland falls by 100 million over decade (Feb 2019)

Transport and Travel Statistics from Scottish Government (Sep 2018) https://www.transport.gov.scot/publication/transport-and-travel-in-scotland-2017/sct08183658301-11/

3. SPICe report on buses in Scotland. Page 9 highlights regional differences in the falling of passenger numbers. https://sp-bpr-en-prod-cdnep.azureedge.net/published/2018/9/3/Transport–Scotland–Bill–Buses/SB%2018-54.pdf

4. Free-to-use photos of protests calling for better public transport are available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmEcX3yW

5. Get Glasgow Moving is the campaign for a world-class, fully-integrated & accessible, publicly-owned, public transport network for everyone in Glasgow. http://www.getglasgowmoving.org

6. Friends of the Earth Scotland is
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.