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Scotland’s greener buses must be run in the public interest

We need a radical overhaul of Scotland's buses.

The Scottish Greens have called for bus services to be radically overhauled across Scotland to guarantee reliable, accessible and affordable services for passengers - with operators penalised if they cut routes or fail to turn up on time.

Green free bus travel for people under 22, disabled users and over 60s should be extended to people seeking asylum, they said, with more plentiful space provided for child buggies, people with mobility needs and cyclists.

Launching council and community run bus services should be made a priority, the party’s transport spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP said, with many more routes for rural areas too.

He also called for more data tracking of operators, warning they should face having Government subsidies and funding withheld if they continue to cut services or for repeated failure to run a reliable timetable. 

Speaking ahead of his Members Debate in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, Mark said:

“At the heart of our vision for better buses are a few central principles. Our buses must be reliable, they must be affordable, they must be accessible and run in the public interest.

“We need system change to ensure Scotland’s buses are run for people, not for profit.”

“One of the most common inquiries I have from constituents about bus services is around short notice cancellation of services. Folks are finding it harder and harder to rely on buses to commute to work, head to school, or meet up with friends and family. 

“Cancelled services erode passenger confidence in buses, particularly in rural areas where people can be left without any other option to make their journey. Passengers and regulators – like the Traffic Commissioner – should be able to hold bus operators to account, so we should use technology at our disposal to track for evidence.

“Millions of pounds of Scottish Government money is also given to bus operators in grants and for concessions, but despite these vast sums, private bus operators recently hiked up fares.  

“A review of all public subsidies for buses has already been agreed, to look at how increased conditionality on public funding could improve bus services. This must be applied to all Scottish Government funding for private bus operators to prevent profiteering, fare hikes, and cancellations. 

“We need to see an integrated ticketing system that allows you to take the bus, train, tram, or metro using one ticket or travel card. I hope to see this in the Scottish Government’s upcoming Fair Fares Review.  

“Politicians, people across our local and national governments, our communities, organisations, and passengers need to back our buses and deliver the transformation in local bus networks that people in Scotland want and deserve.”