A FLAT fare bus trial has been announced by the Scottish Government following a review of the cost of public transport.

On Friday, Transport Secretary Fiona Hyslop (below) announced recommendations set out by the Fair Fares review, launched in 2021 under the Bute House Agreement between the SNP and the Scottish Greens.

The National:

In addition to a flat fare for bus trips, the review recommended that under-22s get free inter-island foot passengers travel in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, as well as an extension of the National Ferry Scheme – which allows for four free single trips to or from the mainland a year – for 18 to 21-year-olds.

The review also includes a pilot scheme to extend free rail travel to the companions of eligible blind people.

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It is not yet clear where the flat fares bus trial is set to take place, but it follows on from decisions to give free bus travel for the over-60s and under-22s.

The National: Lothian Buses is Scotland’s only municipal bus firmIn England, a £2 cap on bus journeys was introduced last year and has been extended to December. Meanwhile, Lothian – Edinburgh's main bus operator – has £2 flat single fares across the city.

The Fair Fares report stated: “We will develop a proposal for a bus flat fares pilot for an area-based scheme to provide flat fares on bus travel, or reduced fares on zonal integrated travel for consideration in future budgets.”

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Launching the trial on Friday, Hyslop said: “The recommendations and actions set out today will help us to ensure we have an available, affordable and accessible public transport system which enables people to make positive and proactive travel choices which result in using their cars less.”

Scottish Greens transport spokesperson Mark Ruskell (below) said: “A trial fares cap on buses will give the Government the evidence to consider bigger changes for all passengers.”

The National: Green MSP Mark Ruskell at Holyrood

Yet the review has drawn criticism, as sustainable transport campaigners Transform Scotland said it failed to set out how ministers planned to curb car use to meet their target of a 20% reduction by 2030.

Director Colin Howden said: “We’re pleased the [Scottish] Government has agreed with us that action needs to be taken to address the cost of motoring relative to the price of public transport.

"Over the last two decades, public transport costs have not only risen relative to costs of driving, but considerably above the rate of inflation.

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“These price signals have encouraged people to drive and discouraged them from taking public transport.

"We see no prospect of transformational change unless and until it’s clearly cheaper to take public transport rather than use private cars.

“But it’s disappointing the review doesn’t set out how this will be tackled, instead kicking the can down the road to the traffic reduction plan, which is itself badly overdue."

Scottish Conservatives transport spokesperson Graham Simpson said: “This is a real disappointment. The SNP had the opportunity to announce some immediate actions that could make a real difference bit instead and as usual, everything is kicked down the road.”