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‘No to Glas-Go’: Glasgow must regulate bus services

Glasgow Times

By Catriona Stewart

A grassroots transport campaign has slammed Glasgow’s new bus alliance as a “stitch-up” and said it will not serve the best interests of the city.

Yesterday the Glasgow Times told how commercial operators have formed the Glas-Go Bus Alliance with a pledge to improve public transport.

But Get Glasgow Moving, a group backing re-regulation of the bus network, said the city is being “robbed of the world-class transport network it deserves”.

And members pointed to the example of Greater Manchester, where the network is being taken back into public control.

Get Glasgow Moving spokeswoman Ellie Harrison said: “This is a total stitch-up.

“Public transport policy needs to be driven by a democratically-accountable public body – like SPT – which can plan the network and regulate fares in order to meet passengers’ needs.

“Last month, Greater Manchester made the historic decision to re-regulate its bus network in order to provide a fully-integrated and affordable service for its region’s people – becoming the first UK city to do so since Thatcher de-regulated our buses in 1986.

“The only reason First and Stagecoach are launching this Glas-Go proposal now is because they are concerned that Greater Glasgow might follow suit – a decision which would significantly eat into their profit margins and shareholders’ returns.

“However, at the moment, the sad fact is that it looks as though they don’t need to worry.

“With the Scottish Government, and Glasgow City Council also pushing the ‘partnership’ model we look set to be locked into the broken privatised system – which puts profits before people – for years to come and Glaswegians will be robbed of the truly world-class public transport network our city deserves.”

On Thursday, an alliance of operators in Glasgow announced a five year plan to deliver more “sustainable, reliable and customer-focused bus travel” for passengers.

Stagecoach, First Bus, JMB Travel, McGill’s, Whitelaws and West Coast Motors, operators of Glasgow Citybus and Glasgow City Sightseeing, have signed up.

Among the pledges made are the introduction of greener vehicles and linking up bus routes with trains, the subway and cycle routes.

Last month Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham announced plans to re-introduce bus regulation, including routes, timetables and fares.

The Transport (Scotland) Act was ratified in November 2019 and gives powers back to local authorities to regulate bus networks for the first time since 1986.

Ellie said: “The council, SPT and the Scottish Government haven’t yet looked at how the new powers in the act might be used to re-regulate the bus network.

“But by the time they do it will be too late because we will be locked into these so-called Bus Service Improvement Partnerships with private operators.

“There is no counterbalance to commercial interests in this new steering group driving the partnership and so we are just going end up maintaining the status quo where the bus companies wield all the power – cut routes they don’t consider to be commercially viable, and continue to hike up fares.

“Instead, we should be looking at all the options in the Transport (Scotland) Act and then we can decide what’s in the best interests of people in the city and ensure that the network works in the public interest.

“Bus companies will sign up to this for five years and take what subsidies they can to bolster their profits – and as soon as the heat is off them in terms of threat of regulation they’ll be back to their old tricks.

“That’s why we must follow the bold example Manchester has now set.”

Fiona Doherty, chairwoman of The Glas-Go Bus Alliance, said the groups welcomes all feedback.

She added: “For the past two years, bus operators from across the Greater Glasgow area have worked alongside Glasgow City Council and SPT to establish a shared vision for bus travel in and out of the city.

“The formation of the Glas-Go Bus Alliance is the natural next step and provides a clear focus in delivering our shared commitment for a world class integrated transport system.

“We look forward to engaging with customers and other key stakeholders over the coming weeks and months.”