TRAVEL: Bus services ‘on brink of collapse without fare cap,’ Labour warns

‘Rip off’ fares are turning some passengers off public transport, the party said

By Bill Heaney

Bus services in Scotland are on “the brink of collapse” due to unreliable and unaffordable fares, Scottish Labour has said.

The party is urging the Scottish Government to introduce a cap on fares to prevent people seeking alternative transport.

Some 130 operators in England have signed up to cap fares at £2 for the first three months of the year, and Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman Neil Bibby has urged Scotland to follow suit.

The Scottish Government said its concessionary bus travel schemes are the most generous in the UK, with under-22s, over-60s, and people with disabilities eligible for free travel.

Passenger bus journeys in Scotland decreased by 65% in 2020/21 to 127 million, compared with 363 million the previous year, according to Transport Scotland data.

In 2007/08, 487 million passenger journeys were recorded.

Statistics also showed that fares in Scotland have increased by 6% in real terms over the last five years, compared with a UK increase of 3%.

Neil Bibby said: “The bus services people need every day to get to their work and move around their communities are on the brink of collapse.

“As a result, more and more people are being forced into cars by unreliable and overpriced services.

“In order to get people back on the buses, we should follow the lead Labour mayors have set in England to cap fares and make public transport affordable once again.

“In Edinburgh, council-owned Lothian Buses’ single fares are just £1.80, but elsewhere in Scotland passengers are paying rip-off fares to private bus companies, such as £2.65 for a two-mile journey in Greater Glasgow.

“Our communities, our economy and our planet need a working bus network which is affordable and reliable. Services will continue to decline unless we take serious action and provide better, cheaper buses.”

“This means Scotland has the most generous concessionary fare scheme in the UK, with more than 2.3 million people eligible for free bus travel – encouraging more people to choose to take the bus and helping us meet our net-zero targets by encouraging a shift away from cars.

“We are progressing the Fair Fares Review to ensure a sustainable and integrated approach to fares that supports the long-term viability of our public transport system as we recover from the pandemic.

“The review is considering both the cost and availability of services and the range of discounts and concessionary schemes which are available on all modes including bus, rail and ferry.

“It will develop and assess options to create a fairer, more transparent system of fares across all modes that maintain and increase affordability for those who need it most.”

One comment

  1. If bus fares have only increased by 5% over the past five years then that I would say is not bad at all.

    I don’t know about other folks but the big concern for me is the soaring cost of fuel, gas, electricity, food, motor vehicles and in fact just about everything.

    They say inflation is now running at 12.3% but look at your bills and it’s nearer 20%. ( or electricity, gas and mortgages )

    The free concessionary bus travel was one of the SNP’s enlightened policies. It has been a godsend to many, old and young. Quite why anyone would have the gall to moan about it I do not know. The sour mentality of someone getting something for nothing is all to extant in too many of our society.

    Moreover, and what a lot of people don’t know, or are too stupid to know, is that the free concessionary fare lets people travel when otherwise they maybe couldn’t afford too. It encourages social mobility and engagement for many older folks who might otherwise be isolated. It promotes better health in older folks. It stimulates the economy. Indeed, in many areas serviced by a regular bus service, one only need to think of the many schemes around this area, which were it not for the concessionary fares, would be left without services save maybe only that of first thing in the morning and in the evening peaks.

    Put simply, the concession fare acts as a subsidy. Just look look at the wrinklies, of which I am one on the buses throughout the day and you’d see that many buses would be virtually passenger less. So it’s very much a subsidy to keep bus services running, keep people mobile and especially those who do not have access to private transport. Moreover it even keeps bus drivers, mechanics and many more folks in a job.

    For me, I think that nationally, at £300 million it’s a small small price for the huge benefits it delivers.

    Or maybe the brains in our opposition parties would prefer to cancel concession fares, cut mobility, cut bus services, and reduce economic activity.

    I know which option I would choose!

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