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ZoneCard price hikes – we need bus regulation now!

At the end of May, our regional transport authority – Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) – announced a swathe of price hikes to ZoneCard – the multi-modal ticketing scheme it administers.

These will come into force on 24 June 2024, as part of ZoneCard’s long-overdue ‘modernisation’ process (in development since 2021).

Although SPT are taking the flack for these eye-watering hikes – that will price thousands off public transport – it’s really the private bus companies that are to blame.

An SPT paper from 2021 explains that although SPT administers the scheme, “ZoneCard is governed through a Forum of the main operators (including a representative of smaller operators)”.

This ‘Forum’ of course includes all the big players: First (who today also announced huge profits), McGill’s, Stagecoach and West Coast Motors amongst others.

Their incentive remains to maximise their own company’s profits, so they work hard to ensure that ZoneCard is as inflexible and expensive as possible, so people opt to buy their own ticketing ‘products’ instead.

This explains why we have waited so long for ZoneCard to be ‘modernised’ and why we are now facing hikes of up to 250%!

This is not how public transport should work

The root cause of all these problems lies in the complete lack of regulation over private bus companies, which has persisted since bus deregulation was implemented across the UK (except London) in 1986.

No other countries across Europe pursued this mad policy, which handed so much power to private companies to set their own routes and fares.

Instead, they continued with the common-sense system where public bodies plan and coordinate the public transport network to work in the public interest.

In a publicly-controlled system you would only ever have one ticketing scheme – with prices set by the transport authority. Individual operator tickets are banned, and the whole ticketing system is simple, fair, transparent and democratically-accountable.

This is the system London has always had (regulated by Transport for London), and a single bus journey there is still only £1.75, compared to £2.95 on First Glasgow.

And it’s the system now being brought in by Transport for Greater Manchester, as they become the first UK city-region to move ahead with re-regulating their bus network since 1986, into order to deliver the new fully-integrated and affordable ‘Bee Network‘.

This is what we urgently need our transport authority SPT to do, by using the new powers in the Transport Act 2019 to take our bus network back into public control.

Sign the Petition

This is the only way SPT can deliver a simple, affordable region-wide integrated ticketing scheme that will actually encourage people to use public transport, rather than pricing them off forever.