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Call For Bus Travel To Be Radically Overhauled, With Maximum Fares of £2

A new paper by Our Scottish Future today calls for bus travel to be radically overhauled, with maximum fares of £2 per urban journey, to support both the cost of living crisis and progress towards net zero.

The paper says that the price of a ticket can be reduced by increasing the number of people travelling by bus. It calls for funding to be diverted from road building, to jump start a greener and cheaper bus service that tempts motorists to leave their cars at home.

It also calls for the Scottish and UK Governments to work together on purchasing a massive new fleet of built-in-Scotland electric buses, creating hundreds of sustainable jobs.

By electrifying the fleet, and getting more people out of their cars, it estimates that an effective bus strategy could slash Scotland’s total transport greenhouse gas emissions by a third.

The paper says the current model of extensive concessionary fares for some and sky-high prices for others is creating a two-tier system with a free service for some, but a worse service for most.

It also warns that unless procurement is stepped up radically, it will take 10 years to move from diesel buses to electric buses on current trends.

It says: “The government has created a failing system where it spends a significant amount of money each year on supporting buses, but without fixing the causes of their decline or creating a thriving industry.”

“In effect, in the cold light of day, the decisions to make bus travel free for some but without releasing adequate top up funding has made busses more expensive for most, and worse for all.”

It says the UK and Scottish Govts should work together to bulk buy a new fleet of electric buses, using our combined purchasing power to create a world leading electric bus manufacturing industry.

In other recommendations, the paper backs the creation of new Transport for Scotland authorities to deliver regional franchising, effectively nationalising the network. With powers equivalent to Transport for London, these would be able to raise standards, increase safety, and create a single travel card that works across Scotland. By cooperating with other devolved governments and mayoralties, that single travel card could create a UK-wide right to roam by public transport.  

Written by sustainability expert Dr Pete Wood and Mark Ross, the paper concludes: “The government has created a failing system where it spends a significant amount of money each year on supporting buses, but without fixing the causes of their decline or creating a thriving industry.”

“Scotland’s challenge going into an era of high fuel prices is not only to repair, but to build a new system, ready for the future.”

“Scottish innovation, combined with UK-wide cooperation and risk-sharing, will allow us to play a leading role in sustainability research, engineering and exports. Repairing our transport network can be an opportunity to save money, build an economy that works for normal people, and to support our friends at home and abroad.”

The chair of Our Scottish Future’s Economy Commission, former Scottish Green party leader Robin Harper writes in the foreword: “The only and best way to get a fair and accessible transport system is for all of us to sit round tables in local and national government across the UK and produce a national transport plan that will work for all providing hundreds of jobs.”

The paper’s recommendations are:

• Make bus travel affordable for everybody – with a maximum fare of £2 for an urban journey of 7.5 miles.

• Double the amount of government support for the transport budget, by reducing new road building funding and by using UK Government investment to support bus decarbonisation.

• Create new Transport for Scotland authorities to deliver regional franchising, with the aim of decarbonising bus fleet and increasing ridership in line with the 2030 climate targets. The new authorities could drawn on expertise established in the front-running English Mayoralties.

• Create a single travel card, that starts in Scotland but works across the UK. Support an industry-building, world-leading, UK-wide bus decarbonisation agreement. The UK and Scottish governments should plan for the long term, using their unique strength to anchor a just transition. Creating a world leading bus manufacturing industry will allow us to support net zero transport by others. By driving down the cost of electric buses we can make it more affordable for the world to transition away from fossil fuels

• Support an industry-building, world-leading, UK-wide bus decarbonisation agreement. The UK and Scottish governments should plan for the long term, using their unique strength to anchor a just transition. Creating a world leading bus manufacturing industry will allow us to support net zero transport by others. By driving down the cost of electric buses we can make it more affordable for the world to transition away from fossil fuels

Read the paper in full here.

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We will only achieve our goals if we work together

COP26 demonstrated once again that we cannot make change happen in the world without making it together. That’s why we’re calling for a COP UK to:

  • Agree common regulatory pathways
  • Distribute resources fairly, to support a fair transition across the UK
  • Bring together devolved authorities and nations, so that we can commit individually and collectively to carbon targets

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