Glasgow’s economic potential is being crippled by poor public transport links, a new report suggests.

The Centre for Cities think tank says that the economy is being held back in part because around 300,000 workers struggle to commute between the city centre and elsewhere in Glasgow.

Andrew Carter, chief executive at the independent research organisation, claims that Glasgow’s economic underperformance is equivalent to the size of the entire nation’s oil and gas sector, or 4.6% of Scotland’s GDP.

The National: Andrew CarterAndrew Carter (Image: Andrew Carter)

He said: “The relatively small size of the public transport network compared to similar cities in Europe is one of the key factors behind this lag.

“For people living in and around Glasgow, this means longer commute times with many residents struggling to access the city centre and all of the jobs and opportunities on offer there.”

Dedicated to improving the economies of the UK’s largest cities and towns, Centre for Cities published the report “Miles better: Improving public transport in the Glasgow city region” in partnership with Get Glasgow Moving and funded through the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places (SCSP) Open Fund.

Centre for Cities says that Glasgow should pave the way for other Scottish cities by being the first to enact bus franchising under Transport Act 2019 powers.

Franchising would give the council full control in deciding bus routes, frequencies, and running hours of services.

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Ellie Harrison, chair of Get Glasgow Moving, said: “Bus deregulation, introduced across Britain (except London) in 1986, has been a disaster for our region’s public transport – leaving us with a system that’s fragmented, expensive and unreliable. It has locked many people out of jobs and opportunities, unable to visit friends or family, or forced to buy cars."

She added: “[Franchising] would enable SPT to deliver a fully-integrated service that’s reliable, affordable and accessible to all.

“The positive impacts this would have are vast: cutting congestion and emissions, improving air quality, and reducing social isolation, but most importantly, ensuring that our region’s poorest communities are properly-connected to all the opportunity that Scotland’s biggest city has to offer.”

Under secondary legislation set to come into force in December, implementing bus franchising and increasing the frequency and reach of bus services could connect hundreds of thousands more city-region residents to the city centre within 30 minutes.

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It could also open up long-term opportunities to integrate urban transport services run by ScotRail and Glasgow Subway into a single transport system with its own ticketing system and cross-subsidies for services in poorly connected areas.

The Transport Act offers a chance to improve public transport in and around Glasgow and bus franchising would better integrate different parts of the city’s transport system, said Carter.

He added: “To get this to happen will require large upfront investment from local and national government.

“But this is a price worth paying – Glasgow’s ongoing underperformance means the Scottish economy is billions of pounds smaller each year than it should otherwise be, and it limits the prosperity available to the millions of people who live in and around Scotland’s largest city.”

A council spokesperson said: “Creating conditions that increase bus use and encourage a move away from private car is a priority for the council.

“Our new transport strategy has a substantial focus on improving bus travel, as a switch to more sustainable forms of transport is essential in the fight against climate change - whilst fewer car journeys can reduce congestion and increase the amenity of our city for everyone.

“We have previously committed to exploring the bus governance powers in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, as set out in our Bus Governance Routemap which we published last year - a move which also lends support to a Clyde Metro as a transformational mass transit system, following its confirmation by the Scottish Government as a key priority for future transport investment.”