Unite the union says the Scottish Government must act to regulate buses, after reports that ministers are looking to raise the age for a bus pass.
At the moment, people aged over 60 in Scotland automatically qualify for a national concessionary travel card, giving them free travel on local buses and intercity routes north of the Border. The Scottish Government pays the bill.
Media reports suggest that Transport Secretary Humza Yousaf is considering closing a £10 million shortfall in the scheme by increasing the qualifying age – which would leave Scots passengers worse off than other areas of the UK.
Unite Scotland is running a Haud the Bus campaign for bus regulation and common ownership of bus services in Scotland.
Unite Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty said: “The free-for-all in Scotland’s bus services has led to rocketing costs for the public purse. Fares in Scotland have gone up 18 per cent in the last five years alone – and every time someone uses their bus pass, that exorbitant cost is passed on to the Scottish Government.
“Instead of looking to cut the eligibility of the bus pass, the Scottish Government should be looking to get control of fares by bringing our buses back under public control.
“In London, fares, routes, timetables and bus standards are all set by Transport for London. That power could soon be rolled out to every local council in England, leaving passengers in Scotland far behind.
“Research for Unite has found that a system like that in Scotland could save us around £51 million a year, which we could use to support the concessionary fare scheme and invest in creating a world-class bus service.
“It is frankly incredible that the Scottish Government hasn’t agreed to regulate our buses, so that we can put people before profit.”
The union took its Haud the Bus campaign for regulation and common ownership of bus services to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee on Thursday of last week (19 January).
The committee has agreed to get the Scottish Government’s official view on bus regulation and to consult with bus users across Scotland.
During the evidence session, MSPs heard from independent researchers Transport for Quality of Life, who estimate that bus regulation could save Scotland some £51 million a year. If buses were under municipal ownership, the savings could be £76 million a year.
The committee also heard that the number of registered bus routes has fallen by 21 per cent since 2006. Since 2007, the number of bus journeys has fallen by 74 million – a drop of 15 per cent. And some £2.6 billion in public subsidies has been handed to bus firms in Scotland since 2006/07.
Notes to editors
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Unite Scotland press officer David Eyre on 07960 451631 / firstname.lastname@example.org