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Let’s invest public money in publicly-owned buses!

The Scottish Government is giving away another £58 million to buy new electric buses in Phase 2 of its ScotZEB scheme.

We’re calling on our regional transport authority – Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) – to seize this opportunity to set-up a new publicly-owned bus company for our region, like Edinburgh’s Lothian Buses.

This is now possible since the Scottish Government released new powers in the Transport Act 2019 last summer which enable new publicly-owned bus companies to be established for the first time since bus deregulation in 1986.

So far, only the Highland Council has utilised these powers. Their pilot scheme launched in January 2023, showing that by running just 10 of their previously contracted out/subsidised routes in-house they are saving £1.4 million every year.

SPT currently contracts out 165 subsidised routes to private bus companies, which they should now start to run in-house. The savings would be vast.

In fact, SPT’s own research (the Glasgow & Strathclyde Transport Act Scoping Study by Systra) recommended that SPT begin this process immediately that the powers became available. Page 71 of the Systra Study sets out this timeline:

  • April – July 2022 – take business, legal and democratic services advice on the establishment of a municipally owned bus company capable of competition for contracts, where competition is weak.
  • August – December 2022 – Establish the relevant company/companies and obtain an O-Licence. Commence competing for secured bus service contracts.

Then, Systra say, once this public operator is established and running the majority of subsidised services, it will be in a good position to compete for larger sections of the network when a regional bus franchising scheme is in place (by 2027).

Although SPT has failed to stick to Systra’s timeline, Phase 2 of Scottish Government’s ScotZEB scheme provides the perfect opportunity to get this new public operator up-and-running.

Whereas Phase 1 of ScotZEB awarded in March 2022 saw more than £60 million given away to private bus companies with just 2% remaining in the public sector (shown in our graph above), Phase 2 offers the chance to turn this around.

Let’s ensure that our public money is invested in publicly-owned buses!

Join our Demonstrations at SPT

Publicly-owned buses now!
Friday 9 June 2023, 9:30am
ahead of the Strategy & Programmes Committee Meeting
Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, 131 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5JF

Friday 23 June 2023, 9:30am
ahead of the full Partnership Meeting
Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, 131 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, G2 5JF