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SPT calls for essential tests for Bus Recovery Funding

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) has written to Transport Scotland calling for four vital tests to be applied when agreeing ongoing bus recovery support to ensure future funding protects those communities who depend on bus transport. 

Despite the perilous position of the Scottish bus market, bus remains the single biggest public transport mode in Scotland.  However, SPT believes that Transport Scotland must ensure that future funding protects all services, not just those which are commercially viable.  This means ensuring future funding for the bus market must come with conditions which will also help future development and planning. 

SPT chair, Councillor Dr Martin Bartos said: 

“I very much welcome the ongoing discussions regarding further essential funding for bus which Scottish Government are having with the operators. It is vital that everyone is managing to get the most out of public funds – given the potential impact on local communities and local authorities.

“SPT has written suggesting four tests which we believe should be borne in mind when it comes to negotiating this ongoing support.”

The four tests SPT suggests are:

Does the funding deal…

  1. Put passengers at the heart of changes?
  2. Ensure transparency of the health of the network?
  3. Protect the network access for the most vulnerable?
  4. Take us on a journey to tackle key transport issues?

Introducing these four tests would help ensure that meaning consultation and engagement would have occur should any changes be made by commercial operators to local bus services.  Making engagement a key requirement for ongoing financial support from Scottish Government.

Meeting the tests also ensure more transparency in the bus market which is badly needed. SPT believes bus companies must provide detailed bus patronage data if they are in receipt of ongoing financial support from Scottish Government. This information is key to effective planning of the network, and for effective dialogue between local transport authorities and operators.

We must also see a commitment to maintain the current bus network in the west of Scotland until bus patronage returns to pre-Covid 2019 levels.  Without adequate funding, there is a real danger that marginal communities and some of our most vulnerable people will lose services and be cut off from vital lifelines.  Neither local authorities or SPT have the resources currently available to step in to provide a subsidised service as they would ordinarily do.

Lastly, the Scottish Government must – as a matter of urgency – commit to developing a long-term strategy for bus services in Scotland in tandem with Transport Authorities and operators.  Buses are critical to the physical, emotional and economic connection of communities throughout Scotland, and particularly to remote and more vulnerable communities.  The strategy needs to deal with the long-term patronage decline, Covid impacts, impact of congestion on bus services, the powers created by the 2019 Transport (Scotland) Act, funding for bus services and infrastructure and, most importantly, affordability for passengers.