Transport Scotland today released new statistics which reveal that the car continues to dominate travel choices, while bus journeys continue their dramatic decline. The statistics follow the revelation by Friends of the Earth Scotland last month that the Scottish Government continues to be in breach of its European legal obligations on air quality, with harmful and toxic levels of traffic-related pollution persisting in many parts of the country.

Commenting on the figures, Emilia Hanna, Air Pollution Campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said:

“The statistics show that even though many people cannot drive or do not have access to a car in Scotland, cars are choking our transport networks and are poisoning our air with toxic pollution. The dominance of the car creates deadly air pollution, climate change emissions, congestion and urban sprawl. The lack of affordable sustainable transport options creates a further disadvantage for people living in poverty.

“The situation for buses is even worse than last year’s gloomy figures, with passenger numbers dropping and fleet sizes shrinking even more rapidly. Buses are an essential part of the solution to our air pollution crisis, with one bus taking up to 75 cars off the road, and yet the sector has seen a 10 per cent drop in passengers in just the last 5 years. The upcoming Transport Bill must make it possible for local transport authorities to have greater control over bus operations so that buses can play their vital role in reducing air pollution and climate emissions.

“We need less reliance on cars, if we are to have create cleaner air, lower climate emissions, less congestion and a fairer transport system. The Scottish Government and local councils must make it easier for more of us to walk, cycle, and use public transport. The Scottish Government and local councils must invest at least 10 per cent of transport budgets into walking and cycling, and look again at congestion charging and workplace parking levies.”

“It is good to see the amount of electric and hybrid cars rising, but these cars make up a tiny proportion of overall number of cars. This makes it clear that more needs to be done to support the transition away from fossil fuelled vehicles, and that support needs to be focused on sustainable alternatives to the car, such as walking, cycling, and public transport.

Key points (all stats are for 2016):

*Buses: The number of bus journeys across Scotland has dropped by 10 per cent in the last 5 years and 3 per cent in the last recorded year alone (last year’s statistics showed an annual drop of 2 per cent). Fleet sizes have dropped 16 per cent in the last 5 years. Bus fares in Scotland have increased by 5 per cent in real terms (adjusting for the effects of inflation) over the past five years, while the increase for Great Britain was 3 per cent.

*Traffic: 1 billion more vehicle kilometres were driven in 2016 than in 2015 (46.4 bn km compared with 45.4 bn km, a 2.3 per cent increase in one year), with cars making up 76 per cent of all traffic (the same is the previous year)

*270,200 new motor vehicles were registered in 2016, 1 per cent per cent more than in 2015

*64 per cent of journeys were made by car, despite 28 per cent of households not having access to a car.

*Electric Vehicles: 16,400 cars registered in Scotland electric and hybrid. 4800 of these were newly registered in 2016, 7 per cent more than in 2015.

*Walking, Cycling, and Public Transport: both cycling and train travel showed strong increases over the last five years. But 31 per cent of journeys to work were made by active travel or public transport, the same as in 2004. Just 4 per cent of journeys to work were made by bike.

*Congestion: 11.7 per cent of driver journeys were delayed by congestion.


The Transport Statistics can be viewed at https://www.transport.gov.scot/publication/scottish-transport-statistics-no-36-2017-edition/

The Scottish Parliament’s Environment Climate Change & Land Reform Committee today published a report of their inquiry into air quality, including a recommendation that the Scotland’s Low Emission Zones apply emissions restrictions to cars, and that the Scottish Government should consider congestion charging and workplace parking levies as part of the solution: https://foe.scot/press-release/enviro-committee-urges-action-air-pollution/

Glasgow City Councillors have promised to implement a Low Emission Zone in Glasgow by the end of 2018. Friends of the Earth Scotland reaction: https://foe.scot/press-release/glasgow-city-council-sets-low-emission-zone-plans-reaction/

Friends of the Earth Scotland welcomed the Scottish Government’s 2017/18 Programme for Government for promising a phase out of the need for petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032, 4 LEZs in key cities by 2020 with the first in place by 2018, a doubling of the budget for walking and cycling, and reform of the bus sector: https://foe.scot/press-release/prog-govt-2017-reaction/

Health impacts of air pollution:
– Friends of the Earth Scotland estimate that 2500 people die early each year from air pollution in Scotland alone: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/RCP-Report
– Air pollution, at levels seen on Scottish streets, has been linked with :
– Respiratory illness including asthma and COPD
– Heart attacks and strokes
– Low birthweight and delayed development in babies whose mothers have been exposed
– Poor lung development in children
– Dementia
– Children, the elderly, people with pre-existing health conditions, and sick are disproportionately affected by air pollution.
– (for more, see the Royal College of Physicians’ 2016 report, “Every Breath we Take: The lifelong impact of air pollution”: https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution)

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s revealed Scotland’s most polluted streets on 21st January 2017: https://foe.scot/press-release/polluted-streets-list-2017/

Free to use print quality photos of air pollution protesters are available at https://flic.kr/s/aHskiVKDf1

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.