EVERTHING is getting more expensive. And for the very many people who rely on cars to get around, the rise in petrol and diesel prices is making things even worse. We need to transform how we get around.

For too long the UK has failed to invest in public transport that isn’t in London.

We all know that there used to be an excellent rail network connecting Aberdeen to towns and cities across the Shire. This rail network connected the places where people lived and worked, allowing them to get around without a car. That’s important for people who can’t drive – whether that’s because they are too young, don’t have access to a car or don’t have a licence.

We must extend the provision of free public transport by bus beyond over-60s and under-22s and beyond just buses, so that more people can get where they need without needing a car. We must reconnect our towns by rail. Peterhead is the world’s largest offshore support facility, yet there is no larger settlement in the mainland UK further from a train station.

By the same measure, Fraserburgh is second on the list. As the North Sea becomes more significant for offshore renewables, we need to provide rail for freight and for people to make sure Peterhead and Fraserburgh benefit from the shift to low-carbon energy.

Both Peterhead and Fraserburgh are regeneration priorities. One way we could supercharge those plans is to provide a rail connection for both towns. Given the success of other rail services that have been put back in, like the Borders railway, we know that this is a proven way to encourage investment. The Campaign for North East Rail has developed proposals for a line to  connect Dyce, Ellon, Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

And bus services are suffering at a time when Brexit is making it more difficult to recruit drivers. We need to be able to recruit drivers to keep people moving, which membership of a larger labour market would allow. We also need investment in new, clean buses which can serve the routes that don’t yet have rail.

As Germany introduces a £7.50 travel pass that allows you to go on any regional or local train in the country for a month, the case for public transport could not be clearer. In an independent Scotland, having taken ScotRail into public ownership, we are in a position to reduce the cost of rail travel. We should do the same with buses.

Good, cheap public transport will be vital to help people cope with the cost of living.

In the end, our private railways were being run by the Dutch national rail company. Instead of the farce of privatised rail and buses making more money for shareholders, or other countries, we should see our public transport as an opportunity to help people get around without the expense of a car.

The cost of living crisis can’t be solved with good public transport alone. But by creating better train and bus services, we can help people to get around more easily. It will make getting to the shops, the doctor or to work easier and can help us to give more people the chance to get where they need to go.

Peter McColl is a writer and thinker who was Rector of Edinburgh University from 2012-15. He has campaigned on a number of issues including free public transport, more participation in our democracy and a better deal for tenants

This article was published as part of a special-edition paper distributed in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire by the Aberdeen Independence Movement. Click HERE to read more of these articles.