SPT calls for essential tests for bus recovery funding

Posted: 7 February 2022 | | No comments yet

The Strathclyde Partnership for Transport has called for four tests to be applied when determining bus recovery funding in Scotland to enforce transparency and better protect vulnerable communities who depend on the bus network.

SPT calls for essential tests for bus recovery funding

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

Despite the perilous position of the Scottish bus market, buses remain 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 that ensuring future funding for the bus market must come with conditions which will also help future development and planning. 

The Strathclyde Partnership for Transport’s Chair, Councillor Dr Martin Bartos, said: “I very much welcome the ongoing discussions regarding further essential funding for bus which the Scottish government is 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.”

SPT suggests that the funding deal should:

  • Put passengers at the heart of changes
  • Ensure transparency of the health of the network
  • Protect the network access for the most vulnerable
  • Consider communities when tackling key transport issues.

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

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

SPT further highlights the necessity of a commitment to maintain the current bus network in the west of Scotland until bus patronage returns to pre-COVID-19 levels. Neither local authorities or SPT have the resources currently available to step in to provide a subsidised service as they would ordinarily do.

Lastly, there is emphasis on the Scottish government’s requirement to commit to developing a long-term strategy for bus services in Scotland in tandem with transport authorities and operators. The strategy needs to deal with the long-term patronage decline, COVID-19 impacts, impact of congestion on bus services, the powers created by the 2019 Transport (Scotland) Act, funding for bus services and infrastructure and affordability for passengers.