TRADE unions, environmental campaigners and health charities have all put their names to a campaign calling for buses in the Strathclyde region to be taken into public control.

It is hoped this could help ensure more affordable fares and create a well-connected public transport system that links up with trains and ferries.

It comes as the buses in Greater Manchester have recently been taken back into public control following a similar campaign.

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Here’s all you need to know.

What is the campaign?

Better Buses for Strathclyde is calling on Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) to re-regulate the buses so it can set routes that serve the needs of communities, ensure affordable fares and create a transport system that links up with trains and ferries.

The region covers 12 council areas and has a population of 2.2 million as well as the largest number of bus users in Scotland.

However, in terms of fares, a single on First Glasgow is now £2.85 compared to just £2 on Edinburgh’s publicly-owned Lothian Buses.

What have campaigners said?

Numerous organisations have showed support for the campaign including the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Glasgow City Parents Group.

Also backing the campaign is Get Glasgow Moving – a campaign demanding better transport for everyone in the Greater Glasgow region.

Ellie Harrison (below), a committee member at Get Glasgow Moving, said: “Buses across Strathclyde are unreliable and too expensive – the private companies running the vital services continue to cut routes and hike up fares despite the vast public subsidies they receive.

“It’s a disaster for our economy, society and our environment. By taking buses back into public control, SPT can cut fares and deliver one simple, affordable ticket across all transport modes – like Greater Manchester is doing right now.”

Meanwhile, the director of Friends of the Earth Scotland Gracie Bradley stressed the need for a good public transport system so as to reduce people’s reliance on cars.

The National:

She said: “We need to start thinking of public transport as an essential service, like education or health.

“Bringing buses back into public control is the first step in making sure it’s available and affordable for everyone.”

Petition launched

A petition encouraging people to back the petition has been launched, saying that “bus services across Strathclyde are in crisis”.

The petition is aiming to reach 2000 signatures and is well on its way with more than 1500 having signed already.

Anyone wishing to sign can do so HERE.

What has the response been?

A Transport Scotland spokesperson responded to the campaign, explaining that Scotland “provides free bus travel to a larger percentage of the population than schemes elsewhere in the UK”.

The spokesperson explained: "Earlier this month, regulations were laid in the Scottish Parliament to give local transport authorities more options to improve bus services in their own areas. 

"It gives authorities access to the remaining bus powers within the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, which was designed to delegate more flexibility to respond to local challenges and empower local authorities to help us to make Scotland’s transport network cleaner, smarter and more accessible than ever before."

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They continued: “As well as running their own bus services, local transport authorities can now work with operators to further improve the quality and efficiency of local services through a Bus Services Improvement Partnership or to develop a franchising framework, where the authority sets out the services to be provided and standards to be met within an area, contracting bus operators to run them.   

“To support this, we recently launched the Community Bus Fund, which aims to improve access to bus services, for example by upgrading bus stops and installing real time electronic timetables, encourage integration between transport modes, perhaps by installing infrastructure like mobility hubs, and trial innovative solutions or improvements to encourage patronage or increase efficiency. 

“In addition, the Bus Partnership Fund (BPF), where funding is provided for bus priority infrastructure to tackle the impacts of congestion on bus services, has awarded over £26 million to operators, local authorities, and others, to identify, develop and deliver bus priority across Scotland.  

“And of course Scotland provides free bus travel to a larger percentage of the population than schemes elsewhere in the UK, with more than 2m people eligible – encouraging more people to choose to take the bus and leave their cars at home. This includes 84m free bus journeys by under 22s across Scotland.

"All of this is backed in 2023/24 by £418.7m in resource funding and £72m in capital funding for bus. We think that proves how important we value the bus sector.”

A spokesperson for SPT meanwhile said: “SPT has been developing a Strathclyde Regional Bus Strategy (SRBS) to look at the future of bus as it is abundantly clear it is currently not delivering for passengers or wider society within Strathclyde.

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“Initial findings of the SRBS have highlighted sustained patronage decline, shrinking network coverage, congestion induced delays, and above inflation fare increases, to be amongst the key issues. This has been set out in SPT’s Case for Change report which was discussed by the SPT Partnership last Friday.

“Phase two of the SRBS will consider all options to address such issues, including the provisions set out in the 2019 Transport (Scotland) Act, with the intention to present a preferred way forward in March 2024 – including the proposed operational and funding model, and timescales for delivery.

“SPT welcomes the input and views of all interest groups and parties as we work towards developing and delivering the SRBS to ensure the bus network better serves the people and communities of the west of Scotland.”