Finnie highlights warnings from bus industry experts on Transport Bill

Scottish Greens transport spokesperson John Finnie MSP today (3 Oct) highlighted warnings from bus industry experts that the Scottish Government’s proposed Transport Bill won’t reverse the year-on-year decline in bus use.

Bus patronage in Scotland has fallen by 43 million trips in the last five years.

At today’s meeting of Holyrood’s Rural Economy & Connectivity Committee, Mr Finnie questioned a range of experts on whether the Transport Bill will arrest the decline.

David Gray, Professor of Transport Policy at Robert Gordon University, said no and pointed to the need to bring transport into the planning system so that developments take into account the need for new bus services, a point agreed to by George Mair of the Confederation of Passenger Transport. Mr Mair went on to criticise UK Government policy of freezing fuel duty, which does not encourage commuters out of cars and onto public transport.

Chris Day of Transform Scotland said the bill doesn’t address issues of infrastructure, and that giving buses road space priority is something that has “taken a back seat” in recent years.

John Finnie, transport spokesperson for the Scottish Greens and MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said:

"The Transport Bill is a golden opportunity to arrest the decline in bus patronage and give communities the reliable, affordable services they are crying out for. Sadly, as we heard today, there’s not a lot in the bill that would meet that aim.

“The bill as it stands will enable public bodies to step in where private operators fail but this won’t stop cherry-picking of profitable routes and it doesn’t address issues such as lack of planning for new developments and lack of road space to help buses beat congestion.

"Successive governments have been happy to spend millions on motorways and encourage the growth of air travel, yet bus services - the most common form of public transport - have been left to wither. It’s clear there’s still work to do to strengthen the Transport Bill if we want better buses.