In autumn / winter 2017, Transport Scotland (the Scottish Government’s national transport agency), ran four consultations relating to our campaign and offering opportunities for improving the dire state of Glasgow’s public transport. Get Glasgow Moving responded to them all, each time stating the importance of solving these issues in parallel and not in isolation.
We also ran an e-action in collaboration with Friends of the Earth Scotland, Unite Community, Unison Scotland and We Own It, encouraging as many people as possible to also send responses to Transport Scotland demanding bold reforms to our transport governance and ‘buses run for people not profit!’.
Read our Consultation Responses:
• Local Bus Services in Scotland – Improving the Framework For Delivery (deadline 5 December 2017)
• The Future of Smart Ticketing in Scotland (deadline 5 December 2017)
• Building Scotland’s Low Emission Zones (deadline 28 November 2017)
• Free Bus Travel for Older and Disabled People and Modern Apprentices (deadline 17 November 2017)
Please accept this as our formal response to ‘The Future of Smart Ticketing in Scotland’ (deadline 5 December 2017). It should be read in parallel with our responses to your concurrent consultations related to the forthcoming Transport Bill: ‘Local Bus Services in Scotland’, ‘Building Scotland’s Low Emission Zones’ and ‘Free Bus Travel for Older and Disabled People and Modern Apprentices’.
I’m writing on behalf of the thousands of people in Glasgow who support our volunteer-run Get Glasgow Moving campaign for a world-class, fully-integrated & accessible, publicly-owned, public transport network for everyone in our city (3,632 supporters via our 38 Degrees petition, 842 via Facebook and 292 via Twitter).
We believe this is the only way we’ll ever be able to tackle our city’s multiple social and environmental problems: illegal air pollution, increasing carbon emissions from transport and chronic social isolation and inequality.
A multimodal smartcard (for use across buses, trains, Subway and cycle hire) with an affordable daily price cap (like London’s ‘Oystercard’, delivered by Transport for London in 2003), is an integral part of delivering our vision for Glasgow. As we state in our manifesto, we want to simplify public transport use and make it affordable for everyone in order to increase patronage; we want ‘one city, one ticket’ now.
The Scottish Government has had control over nearly all of the country’s public transport since the Parliament was set up in 1999, with new powers to control the ScotRail franchise granted in the 2016 Scotland Act.
It is therefore absurd that Transport Scotland should blame poor governance, lack of regulation and the dominance of private operators for its own failure to implement a country- or region-wide multimodal smartcard over the last 18 years. The consultation states that Scotland has been unable to deliver an ‘Oystercard’ equivalent “due to the sheer number of operators and the hugely complex fares systems” (p.79), when it is well within our power to regulate and simplify this mess so that we can.
It is therefore impossible to look at the issues raised by this consultation in isolation. The forthcoming Transport Bill (and the concurrent consultations on ‘Local Bus Services in Scotland’, and on ‘Concessionary Travel’) offers a real opportunity to deliver the bold reforms of our transport governance necessary to finally deliver this long-overdue project, which will help to integrate and simplify our public transport network and increase patronage.
Now is the time to legislate to give power back to newly enhanced Local Transport Authorities (SPT or the new ‘Transport for Glasgow’) and to take it away from private operators acting solely in the interests of their shareholders. The fact that we have been waiting so long for a multimodal smartcard for Glasgow proves just how badly the ‘partnership’ approach has failed. As the consultation states: “it is… apparent that relying purely upon a collaborative approach has… limitations” due to operators with “conflicting commercial imperatives” (p.83).
As we state in our response to the ‘Local Bus Services in Scotland’ consultation, it is clear that if we moved towards publicly-owned bus companies (Lothian Buses delivered their smartcard in 2002) or highly-regulated franchises like in London (alongside a publicly-owned operator for ScotRail from 2020), then there would be far more willingness and ability for cooperation. Moreover, a newly enhanced Local Transport Authority (SPT or the new ‘Transport for Glasgow’) could simply stipulate in their franchising agreements that private companies, who want to continue to operate, must accept the same ITSO smartcard with an affordable daily price cap across all public transport modes in the region and that all their other competing smart ‘products’ must be phased out.
But this is not just about implementing the technology. The only way to truly increase patronage is with an accompanying simplification and reduction in fares. Like in London, we want to see a flat fare of £1.50 for any bus journey within the region, with the ability to ‘hop’ onto another bus for free within an hour. Unless there is real clarity over the cost of a journey and the amount operators are permitted to take from a person’s smartcard balance, people are likely to continue being ripped off and will quickly lose trust in using it.
We will not accept the compromise of a so called ‘e-purse’. We must deliver daily price capping within the each region to ensure that private operators do not exploit people using smartcards, as they currently do with the Concessionary Travel scheme (often charging the maximum fare to the Scottish Government for every journey a card holder makes). In fact, in order to incentivise smartcard use, fares should be cheaper than without.
As we state in our response to the ‘Concessionary Travel’ consultation, the multimodal aspect is also essential. The current Concessionary Travel scheme, which is only available for use on buses, has created an unjust hierarchy of transport modes. It is saying “you can use the train, Subway and cycle hire if you can afford to pay” but if you’re elderly or disabled you have to make do with grossly substandard privately-owned buses. If we want to encourage active travel and the improved mental and physical health that results, then access to cycle hire schemes using the same smartcard must also be delivered (something completely overlooked by the consultation). The same multimodal facility should be available to Concessionary Travel card holders (as the ‘Freedom Pass’ works in London) as it is to fare paying passengers.
It is essential that we join the dots between the issues raised by these separate consultations in order to deliver the world-class, fully-integrated, accessible and affordable public transport network we need to build a fairer and more sustainable Glasgow.
Our campaign would like to be involved in the next stages of planning for the forthcoming Transport Bill. Passenger / citizen involvement in decision making is essential to its delivery a success.
We look forward to hearing from you.