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Local Bus Services

Local Bus Services in Scotland – Improving the Framework For Delivery

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!’. 1,882 responses were submitted before the deadline on 5 December 2017.

Read our Consultation Responses

Local Bus Services

Subject: Consultation Response

Dear Sir/Madam,

Please accept this as our formal response to ‘Local Bus Services in Scotland – Improving the Framework For Delivery’ (deadline 5 December 2017) and your other concurrent consultations related to the forthcoming Transport Bill, to which we have also made separate submissions: ‘The Future of Smart Ticketing 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 want to stress the importance of a holistic approach to our transport network, which does not consider the issues raised by these four consultations in isolation. Many of the problems we experience in Glasgow are the result of a lack of integration and coherent ‘big picture’ thinking about how our public transport network should function together effectively as a whole.

The forthcoming Transport Bill offers a real opportunity to deliver the bold reforms of our transport governance necessary to tackle our illegal air pollution, cut our carbon emissions from transport and reduce social isolation and inequality in our city.

Publicly Owned Buses:

We absolutely want a newly enhanced Local Transport Authority for Glasgow (SPT or the new ‘Transport for Glasgow’) to be granted the powers necessary to run its own bus company (a new ‘Strathclyde Buses’). Glasgow must be given the financial support necessary to set up a bus company (like Edinburgh’s successful and popular Lothian Buses), which is part-owned by Glasgow City Council and the surrounding Councils which presently make up SPT and, most importantly, which is constituted so that all its profits are reinvested in expanding the region’s public transport network, improving reliability and reducing fares.

We believe it is essential that the public investment in low emission buses (necessary to meet the requirements of Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone) remains in public ownership / control, rather than subsidising the profits of private operators. This could be achieved if new electric buses became the assets of our new publicly-owned bus company or if a new publicly-owned Leasing Company rented them back to private companies who want to continue to operate (under the terms of the new franchising agreements described below).


It is clear from the number of bus routes axed in our city and the overly-complex and unaffordable fares, that ‘partnership’ with private operators has failed Glasgow. We want to see all voluntary partnerships and contracts (sQPs and the ‘Quality Contract’) superseded by a highly-regulated bus franchising system, which gives power back to a newly enhanced Local Transport Authority for Glasgow (SPT or the new ‘Transport for Glasgow’) and takes it away from private operators acting solely in the interests of their shareholders. If there has to be ‘competition’ in our public transport network, then this should only be at the contract tendering stage “competition for the market rather than competition in the market” as described in the consultation (p5.42). And with a new publicly-owned bus company for Glasgow, there can always be a public-ownership option on the table.

In order to ensure that the interests of passengers and industry employees always come first, the Local Transport Authority must have the power to specify the exact terms of these franchise agreements*, including:

1) bus routes (connecting isolated communities, routes must be carefully planned in relation to the Strategic Review described below)
2) frequency of service (including increased evening/weekend services to improve reliability and increase patronage)
3) fares (a flat fare of £1.50 for any distance within the region, with the ability to ‘hop‘ onto another bus for free within an hour)
4) smart ticketing (all operators must accept the same ITSO smartcard with an affordable daily price cap across all public transport modes in the region, with all other competing smart ‘products’ being phased out)
5) emission standards (as described above, we can meet the aims of the first phase of Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone focussing on buses, through these franchise agreements alone)
6) livery (to aid the full integration of the network, the confusing variety of bus colours/private brands should be replaced with a coherent ‘look’ for all buses in the region regardless of the operator)
7) pay and conditions (regardless of the operator, employees at the same level across the bus industry should receive the same training, pay and conditions through collective bargaining agreements)
8) concessionary fares (it should also be part of the franchise agreement that operators accept all Concessionary Card holders needing to travel at no additional cost per person, making it affordable to extend the scheme to other marginalised/low-income groups)
9) data sharing (operators must make available all data necessary to enable effective route planning and to provide co-ordinated real-time information at all bus stops/stations, online and on apps)
10) accessibility (operators must provide real-time audio-visual ‘next stop’ announcements on all bus services to enable access for disabled people)

* Nearly all of the terms above are already specified in Transport for London’s franchise agreements with bus operators, which have enabled them to deliver a world-class, fully-integrated, accessible and affordable public transport network for everyone in their city. Glasgow must seize the opportunity of the forthcoming Transport Bill to enhance its Local Transport Authority (SPT or the new ‘Transport for Glasgow’) so that it can now do the same. ‘Transport for Glasgow’ must have the same wide-ranging remit (over all transport modes described below) and be constituted so that it is also “committed to reducing costs and reinvesting all our income to run and improve services”.

Strategic Review of the whole Local Transport Network:
Buses, Rail, Subway, Cycle Hire and Parking / Traffic controls working together

The consultation proposes a new ‘Service Improvement Partnership’ (p.5.27), which is a Strategic Review of the local bus network conducted by the Local Transport Authority (in ‘partnership’ with private operators). A Strategic Review is desperately needed in Glasgow where private operators have axed many routes over the last few years, leaving big gaps in the city’s network with people unable to access basic services like hospitals and job centres. The current de-regulated model creates a clog of buses on ‘commercially viable’ routes, resulting in a heavily congested city centre and sparse services elsewhere. Passengers often have to pay twice to get into the city centre and then out again as there are now very few east-west services (after First axed the no.42). Therefore, there are two things, currently overlooked by the consultation, which are essential for this Strategic Review to be a success:

Firstly, passengers / citizens must be involved in all stages of this review. Our voice / concerns should be prioritised over the private operators acting solely in the interests of their shareholders. However, the operators must be required to share data on present routes to aid our newly enhanced Local Transport Authority (SPT or the new ‘Transport for Glasgow’) with effective planning.

Secondly, it is essential that we take a holistic approach to this review, which considers the entire transport network: buses alongside trains, Subway and cycle hire and, most importantly, parking and other traffic controls as well (such as Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone). One of the reasons cited in the consultation for bus patronage decline in Glasgow compared to Edinburgh is the cheap car parking available in our city (p.5.88). Power to control the cost of parking and the new Low Emission Zone must also reside with a newly enhanced Local Transport Authority for Glasgow (SPT or the new ‘Transport for Glasgow’). This way, we can simultaneously discourage car travel and increase public transport patronage by using revenue generated from traffic fees and fines to reinvest in expanding the public transport network, improving reliability and reducing fares.

We wholeheartedly reject the notion that buses ‘compete’ with rail, Subway and other services (p.5.88). It is this flawed market mentality that is preventing us delivering a fully-integrated and coherent public transport network that utilises the brilliant infrastructure that we do already have in Glasgow (i.e. the biggest suburban rail network outside London). We must ensure that we strategically plan our public transport network so that bus services complement and properly integrate with other public transport modes to serve everyone in the region. This integration must be delivered through: proper route planning, co-ordinated timetabling, physical integration of bus stops/stations and by delivering a long-overdue multimodal ITSO smartcard system. As we state in our manifesto and in our response to the consultation ‘The Future of Smart Ticketing in Scotland’, we want ‘one city, one ticket’ now (Transport for London delivered their ‘Oystercard’ in 2003).

We believe that incorporating the approach above into the forthcoming Transport Bill will help to resolve many of the issues raised in Transport Scotland’s concurrent consultations: ‘Local Bus Services in Scotland’, ‘The Future of Smart Ticketing in Scotland’, ‘Building Scotland’s Low Emission Zones’ and ‘Free Bus Travel for Older and Disabled People and Modern Apprentices‘.

It is essential that we join the dots between these issues 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, as well as the Strategic Review of our city’s public transport network which results. Passenger / citizen involvement in decision making is essential to its delivery a success.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Ellie Harrison