Time to make Scotland’s railways work for people and planet

Cheaper, greener rail must be at the heart of our transport policy.

Scotland can enjoy a renaissance in public transport by making trains and buses cheaper and easier to use on a permanent basis, say the Scottish Greens.

Evidence of a new generation of bus users is now clear since cheaper greener buses were first secured by the Scottish Greens and supported by unions, said the party’s transport spokesperson Mark Ruskell MSP. 

Over 137 million free bus journeys have been taken by young people since fares were removed for everyone under 22.

Early data shows car drivers are already starting to ditch their vehicles for trains after a suspension of peak rail fares on ScotRail services, suggesting the same approach could achieve a similar legacy, as supported by the Scottish TUC, RMT, ASLEF, TSSA and Unite unions. 

During a members debate today, Mr Ruskell said: “Nearly three quarters of a million young people in Scotland now have access to free bus travel. More than 137 million journeys have been made in just over two years, and the National Entitlement Card goes further by also offering young people 50% off train fares. 

“We are already creating a generation whose first choice is public transport. And there are already green shoots of progress emerging from the interim evaluation of the off-peak all-day pilot that was published earlier this week. 

“Although the picture is still yet to fully emerge – the data shows us that 53% of new rail passengers in the pilot period had previously chosen to travel by car.  It also shows us one third of existing rail users made at least one additional rail journey which they would have ordinarily made by another travel mode with two-thirds of those journeys normally by car.  

“But if we want to see a long term modal shift, we need to give people the security of knowing that peak time rail is gone for good.  Only then can commuters start to plan their work and travel options around fixed rail services that are cost competitive with running a private car.”

He added: “This is about changing habits that have been formed over a lifetime – and a lifetime in which governments of all shades have prioritised roads and cars over public transport. Cheaper rail fares will make train travel more attractive to both commuters and leisure travellers.  

“But we also need to think bigger. We need to be brave and bold. Measures like congestion charging and workplace parking levies in the cities are needed to get a better balance between private car use and public transport. We also desperately need to see progress on integrated ticketing

"With ScotRail in public ownership, now is our chance to really deliver on a peoples’ vision for ScotRail. One which makes rail travel affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. One which encourages folks out of cars and on to our trains. And getting rid of peak times fares is an important step on that journey."