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Glasgow Transport Strategy

Take action for better public transport

If COP26 delegates can have free multi-modal travel passes,
why can’t we?

Make sure you respond to Glasgow City Council’s second consultation on the Local Transport Strategy before the deadline at midnight this Friday 3 December 2021.

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The Council has been developing its Local Transport Strategy over the last two years. In autumn 2020, it held a big public consultation on the first draft. We submitted a detailed response explaining what needs to be done to sort out the mess our public transport is in.

We also submitted our two petitions with close to 20,000 signatures demanding proper governance and regulation over our public transport network and a new publicly-owned bus company for the Greater Glasgow region to offer us the same reliable and affordable service as Edinburgh’s Lothian Buses.

We helped to mobilise hundreds of our supporters to send the Council their views, and when the results were published in February, they showed that only 16% of respondents are currently satisfied with our region’s buses. The key problems identified as: the high cost of fares, lack of integrated/smart ticketing and failure to deliver a co-ordinated service across transport modes.

And yet the revised ‘Policy Framework’ of the Local Transport Strategy, which is currently out for consultation until this Friday 3 December 2021, fails to commit to the action necessary to address these problems. That’s why we need you to take action again!

Take action before Friday 3 December 2021

If you have time, please read over our detailed response below and use whatever you like to formulate your own responses to the survey questions.

If you’re short on time, we recommend you skip through to question ‘7. Pose a policy’, where you can suggest policies that are absent from the Strategy. Here are some we would recommend:

The Council should work with neighbouring Councils through SPT to re-regulate the region’s bus companies using the new ‘franchising’ power in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019. This will enable us to properly plan the network to re-connect communities left stranded by cuts from private operators, deliver full integration with trains and Subway and impose an immediate cap on fares.

The Council should work with neighbouring Councils through SPT to set up a publicly-owned bus company for Greater Glasgow to start taking over routes. This will provide a better service and ensure public money is not being extracted from the system as private profit.

Once running costs have been brought under control, the Council should work with neighbouring Councils through SPT to roll-out free multi-modal travel passes for everyone in the region. If it’s possible for COP26 delegates, then it’s possible for us!

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Get Glasgow Moving’s Response

5-6. Technical policies overall

We support some of these policies but some could be changed or added to

We are mainly concerned with the policies in Chapter 5, Section 4 on the governance and regulation of the bus network:

  • Action 4.K: Develop a Glasgow Bus Partnership in line with the provisions of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 [Policy linkage: Glasgow Climate Plan]
  • Action 4.L: Explore alternative options for bus governance and delivery in Glasgow in line with those options laid out in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 [Policy linkage: Glasgow Climate Plan]

We fundamentally reject the proposal to work in ‘partnership’ with the private bus companies, either through the voluntary ‘Glasgow Bus Partnership’ or a statutory ‘Bus Service Improvement Partnership’ (BSIP). This approach has been tried repeatedly in Scotland since the Transport Act 2001 and it has continually failed to deliver, as private bus companies still control their own networks and are still free to decide which routes they’ll run and how much they’ll charge for tickets. Over the last two decades we have lost millions of miles of routes not deemed ‘commercially viable’ by these operators, and bus fares have risen well above inflation, exploiting the poorest – who do not own cars – the most.

Signing up to a BSIP with the private operators will be the definition of madness – trying the same thing again and expecting different results – and will never deliver the massive step-change in the quality, availability and affordability of public transport that we need over the next 10 years to meet our climate targets, reduce inequalities and cut car miles by 20% by 2030. It will also prevent us from delivering other key policy actions, such as “a single, integrated, smart ticket for public transport in the city (with the potential to include other forms of mobility like cycle hire and car clubs)”. As Transport for Quality of Life clearly show in their report ‘Building a World-Class Bus System for Britain’:

“No partnership model – no matter how it is framed – can achieve the transformative change that is needed: it cannot enable a local authority to plan and deliver a comprehensive area-wide bus network; cannot enable creation of a single easy-to-understand fares structure; cannot allow timetables and services to be coordinated; cannot guarantee network stability and easy-to-find comprehensive information; and cannot enable costs of concessionary fares payments to be brought under control.” p.12

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 finally provides the new powers that we need to take a different approach. For the first time since 1986, we can now re-regulate the bus network, through a region-wide ‘franchising’ framework, and set-up a new publicly-owned bus company for our region to start to take over routes. While we support Action 4.L to ‘Explore alternative options for bus governance and delivery’, this directly contradicts Action 4.K to ‘Develop a Glasgow Bus Partnership’ and breaches the Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance, which stipulates that public bodies must first explore all the options for tackling transport problems before deciding on the most appropriate solutions. It is therefore vital that Action 4.K is removed from the policy framework. No decision can be taken on bus governance until Action 4.L is complete – a process which is now underway in the Systra Scoping Study commissioned by SPT and Glasgow City Council (due to report back at the end of the year).

Our comparator cities in England – Manchester and Liverpool – have both carried out extensive investigations into all the powers now available to them (just partnerships and franchising under the Bus Services Act 2017 in England). Both have concluded that only re-regulating their entire bus networks through region-wide franchising frameworks will deliver the comprehensive, fully-integrated and affordable networks their regions need. The highly respected economic think-tank Centre for Cities has also analysed the pro and cons of these transport powers and recommends that city regions reject ‘partnerships’ in favour of ‘franchising’. If the Systra Scoping Study does not reach a similar conclusion, it will be clear the process has been another stitch-up between the private bus companies and the powers that be, riding roughshod over all the evidence and public opinion.

Action 4.K to ‘Develop a Glasgow Bus Partnership’ also contradicts other Glasgow City Council policy documents, which must be referenced in the Glasgow Transport Strategy as ‘Policy linkage’:

  • The SNP 2017 Manifesto promised to “Investigate local bus franchising to deliver a more comprehensive, accessible network for communities”
  • The Council’s Strategic Plan commits to “Explore the feasibility of a local bus franchising framework to deliver a more connected service across the city” Priority 57
  • The Climate Emergency Working Group recommended to “investigate the use of the ‘franchising powers’ set out in the Transport Bill to regulate the city’s bus network on the principles of one network, one timetable, and one ticket” Recommendation 17
  • The Council’s Connectivity Commission recommended that if the current bus partnership continues to perform poorly “on bus patronage compared with other UK cities, the Commission’s firm view is the powers in the new Scottish Transport Bill should be deployed to regulate the bus network.” p.18

Unless these changes are made, the words ‘franchising’ or ‘publicly run’ will be completely absent from any of the policy actions in the Glasgow Transport Strategy, in favour of very weakly worded propositions such as ‘Glasgow Bus Partnership (and subsequent iterations)’ or ‘Bus Service Improvement Partnership Plan or related plans’ [emphases added]. This would amount to an unacceptable back-pedalling exercise from the Council given the previous policy documents listed above. And especially given that the ‘Problems to be tackled’ section on p.23 acknowledges that: “The topic of better governance of transport [was]… also cited as a problem in relation to public transport from the Public Conversation, with a desire for a publicly run public transport system which is integrated and affordable.” If this is being acknowledged as a significant problem, then why aren’t the obvious solutions being explicitly proposed? What’s the point of gathering the public’s views if you are not going to take action to address them?

Policy 3.8 commits the Council to applying its “Equality Impact Assessment screening process, which includes the Fairer Scotland Duty and consideration of human rights, as required to transport policies and projects and ensure all groups with protected characteristics and those deemed to suffer disproportionately from transport impacts are considered in consultations, as well as the prioritisation, design and delivery of projects.”

We support this action, and it is vital that it is applied when carrying out Action 4.L to ‘Explore alternative options for bus governance and delivery’. Earlier this year the former UN Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty & Human Rights, Philip Alston, wrote a scathing report of the UK bus sector and the human rights impacts of deregulation and privatisation of buses. He concludes that: “It is time partnerships are recognised as a tried-and-failed approach that should be retired in favour of actual regulation of public transport.” p.33

It is essential that the findings of Philip Alston’s report are taken into consideration when deciding which of the new powers in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 the Council will commit to. We also want to see the Glasgow Centre for Population Health’s recommendations taken into account. In their response to the Public Conversation in November 2020, they write:

“The recent report of the Climate Change Working Group includes the following recommendation: ‘The Council investigates use of the ‘franchising’ powers set out in the Transport Bill to regulate the city’s bus network and to work on the principles of one network, one timetable, one ticket.’ We would welcome any efforts to make this vision a reality.”

7. Pose a policy

The Glasgow Transport Strategy must commit the Council to work with our neighbouring Councils through our regional transport authority, SPT to:

  • re-regulate the region’s bus companies using the new ‘franchising’ power in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019. This will enable us to properly plan the network to re-connect communities left stranded by cuts from private bus companies, deliver full integration with trains and Subway and impose an immediate cap on fares.
  • set up a publicly-owned bus company for Greater Glasgow to start taking over routes. This will provide a better service and ensure public money is not being extracted from the system as private profit.
  • and, once running costs have been brought under control, to roll-out free multi-modal travel passes for everyone in the region. If it’s possible for COP26 delegates, then it’s possible for us!

8-9. Delivery and governance

We support some of these policies but some could be changed or added to

The Glasgow Transport Strategy must be much clearer on Glasgow City Council’s relationship with SPT. The way the Strategy is worded, using very weak phrases such as “encourage SPT”, “lobby our partners” or “work towards” makes it sound as though SPT is an external body over which the Council has no control. This is simply not the case. SPT is governed by a Board made up of Councillors from across the region and appointed members. Out of the 20 Councillors on the SPT Board, five are from Glasgow City Council (one quarter!). If these Councillors are properly-briefed and engaged during Board Meetings, it gives Glasgow City Council a significant voice within SPT to recommend and implement policy actions on public transport.

Rather than writing ‘we will work with SPT’, it would be more accurate to write ‘we will work through SPT’ to deliver improvements to public transport. It is vital that all significant decisions on the public transport are led by SPT as regional connectivity is essential, and this is the best way to spread costs fairly across the region.

10-11. Guiding principles

We agree with some of these principles but some could be changed or added to

With regards to ‘Managing uncertainty’, we will not support this principle if it can be used as an excuse by the private bus companies for maintaining the status quo where they can cut routes as they please in order to maximise shareholder profit.

The truth is that we would have much more flexibility and resilience in times of crisis, if we owned and controlled the bus networks ourselves. This would have helped a great deal at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead the Scottish Government chose to give hundreds of millions of pounds in bailouts to private operators, who have continued to cut vital routes.

11-12. Monitoring and evaluation

We agree with some of these monitoring indicators but some could be changed or added to

Given that the cost of public transport is a major concern for people in Glasgow, we must monitor the cost of single bus fares and multi-modal tickets in comparison to other cities. The only way we will encourage more people to use public transport at the speed that is necessary before 2030, is by dramatically improving the service as well as slashing the cost of fares.

A single bus fare on privatised First Glasgow is currently £2.50 – that is nearly £1 more than a single fare on buses regulated by Transport for London, where £1.55 gets you a ‘hopper fare’ where you can hop on as many buses as you need to complete your journey within one hour. Achieving similarly low simple flat fares must be a measure of success, as well as achieving a multi-modal day ticket with an affordable daily price cap. But our aspiration must be to go lower still…

We support Action 9.A: ‘to explore the feasibility of a targeted free public transport scheme, and subject to this, monitor and evaluate any pilot to inform thinking on the benefits and costs of free public transport. This should build on Transport Scotland’s free bus travel scheme for under 22s.’

This action is a direct result of the Free Our City campaign’s demands. It is vital that this pilot happens soon and is rolled out to all demographics, on all transport modes. If we continue with the current concessionary model of just offering free bus travel to certain groups (elderly, disabled, young people) then we do nothing to encourage those in the ‘middle group’ – who are more likely to own cars – to start using the bus instead of driving. This also continues to stigmatise buses as a transport mode which is just used by certain groups and does nothing to create a better-integrated society and encourage modal shift. Buses, trains and Subway should all be for everyone – so it must be a priority to make them all fully-accessible.

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