Tue 11 Jun, 2019

Greens will continue to push for the current Transport Bill to change these laws so that important routes like the 15 can be supported to continue running, even if private companies aren’t interested. Ross Greer MSP

Chief executive of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, Gordon Maclennan, has confirmed to local Green MSP Ross Greer than the 15 bus service, which will be ended by operator Glasgow Citybus at the end of this month, will be replaced by a service running between Milngavie and Anniesland, with the potential for it to go further if the private operator chosen to run the route opts to do so. This means that a bus link between Bearsden and Milngavie will be maintained from July.

Concern in the community has been widespread since Citybus made the shock announcement that they would be ending the service, which runs between Milngavie and Glasgow City Centre, via Bearsden, Anniesland and Glasgow University. Mr Greer, a regular user of the 15 service himself, used his meeting with SPT executives to hand over a sixteen page summary of the emails, letters and calls he has received from those reliant on the service, as well as a petition from the residents of Oakburn Gardens sheltered housing.

SPT are required to ensure that bus routes with a ‘social necessity’ are replaced when a private operator pulls out. As a section of the current 15 route qualifies for this, the body has issued a tender for the route, with the selected operator to be chosen from the bidding companies in the next week. The successful bidder will be subsidised to run the service hourly from Monday to Saturday, but only between Milngavie and Anniesland. They will be free to extend or vary the route or timetable, but will not receive public subsidy to do so. SPT’s intention is for the replacement service to begin operating as soon as the current 15 ceases.

The news comes as Green MSPs in Holyrood are attempting to pass an amendment to the Transport Bill, which would give SPT the power to subsidise or directly run whole services, rather than being limited to only areas where private companies do not operate. The current system results in the public paying twice, firstly in bus fares collected by private operators and then through taxation to subsidise the routes those companies do not want. Were the Greens’ amendments to be agreed, public bodies like SPT or individual councils would be able to run entire routes, rather than just fill in the gaps in service while private companies dominate the profitable routes.

Greer, Green MSP for the West of Scotland, who regularly uses the service himself commented: “I’d like to thank SPT for meeting at short notice and for being open and helpful in discussing the situation. It’s great that nobody will be left stranded without any bus at all but what we’ll end up with is an even more fragmented service, with passengers potentially having to get three buses from three different operators when they could have previously used just the one.

“I hope that SPT will pick a bidder who keep the service as close to the current 15 as possible, particularly by running it as far as Glasgow University, for the sake of local students and staff. I accept that their hands are largely tied by the laws introduced by Thatcher around deregulation of buses. Greens will continue to push for the current Transport Bill to change these laws so that important routes like the 15 can be supported to continue running, even if private companies aren’t interested. This patchwork of different operators and sub-standard services needs replaced by the kind of first-class publicly-ran services offered by Lothian Buses in Edinburgh, where passengers rather than profit come first.”

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