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Glasgow’s night bus fiasco: What next?

Earlier this summer, First Bus provoked outrage by announcing that it would be axing Glasgow’s entire night bus network from 20 August.

Get Glasgow Moving was interviewed on GoRadio, STV News, The Guardian and BBC Reporting Scotland – making it clear that this latest swathe of cuts (on top of those announced in February) were just another symptom of the dreadful system of bus deregulation which has prevailed since 1986.

In the deregulated system, private bus companies can pick and choose which services they run based purely on where they can make most money. This is despite them receiving more than £320 million in public subsidy every year, with little-to-no strings attached.

On 12 July, we saw the pathetic sight of the First Minister and former First Minister writing a grovelling letter to First Bus to beg them to keep night bus services running. Do they not realise that they have had control over transport policy in Scotland since devolution in 1999?

They should have passed legislation to re-regulate the bus companies immediately after the Scottish Parliament was set up. Instead, they waited twenty years until the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 to give transport authorities (like our SPT) the power to re-regulate their bus networks (through ‘franchising’).

The trouble is, nearly four years later (and counting), Transport Scotland has still failed to enact these powers, nor to provide the funding and support necessary for public bodies, like SPT, to be able to utilise them.

The latest we heard from Transport Scotland (in a letter dated 1 August 2023), was that “There is some further secondary legislation required for both franchising and partnership working, and these regulations will be delivered later in 2023 and into 2024.”

This autumn, we plan to really step-up our campaign to ensure that SPT takes our bus network back into public control by utilising the franchising powers as soon as they become available in 2024.

We kick this off with ‘Taking our buses back into public control’ – a special Members’ Meeting on Wednesday 6 September, 6:30-8pm, where we’ll look at what we can learn from Manchester and Liverpool who are both much further down the franchising path (see details below).

The first section of Greater Manchester’s newly re-regulated bus network – the Bee Network – launches on Sunday 24 September – with the full network complete and fully-integrated with their trams by 5 January 2025 (all their region’s trains will be added by 2030).

Meanwhile in Glasgow, on Monday 14 August, it was announced that nine of the 11 night bus routes would continue to run following backroom discussions between First Bus and McGill’s to carve up the market (see our response to this news in the clip from Reporting Scotland above).

Not only may this arrangement be considered illegal in an absurd deregulated system which bars collaboration between operators, but it is certainly not going to be a permanent fix to a recurring problem. The only way to ensure that everyone in our region is guaranteed access to regular, reliable, affordable public transport at all times of the day and night, is by re-regulating our buses once-and-for-all.

Taking our buses back into public control:
What can Glasgow learn from Manchester & Liverpool?

Wednesday 6 September, 6:30-8pm
Unite Scotland Offices
145/165 West Regent Street, Glasgow G2 4RZ

Join our Get Glasgow Moving Members’ Meeting to find out more about what Glasgow can learn from Manchester’s and Liverpool’s experience of taking their buses back into public control (non-members are welcome to join in advance or on the door). Register to attend at: takingbusesback.eventbrite.co.uk

Watch a recording of the meeting: