More powers for Scottish LAs to run bus services

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The Scottish Government has announced plans to commence powers in the Transport (Scotland) Act for local authorities to run their own bus services by July 2022. Secondary legislation to enable bus franchising and partnership options will also be introduced before the end of next year.

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 was intended to help make Scotland’s transport network ‘cleaner, smarter and more accessible than ever before’ by empowering local authorities and establishing consistent standards in order to tackle current and future challenges, whilst delivering a more responsive and sustainable transport system. Work to implement the new bus legislation provided by the Act was paused as a consequence of Covid-19 and the need to shift focus and support bus operators in navigating the pressures of the pandemic. The work recommenced in early 2021, with consultation to inform the development of the necessary secondary legislation and guidance conducted in the latter half of 2021.

The consultation results and analysis have now also been published by Transport Scotland. Minister for Transport Jenny Gilruth said: “Local authorities asked for greater powers to run their own bus services and I’m pleased the Scottish Government will now deliver this.
“As with many aspects of the Transport Act, the provisions empower local authorities with the flexible tools they need to respond to their own transport challenges. Not every local authority will want to run their own bus services – some may opt for a partnership or franchise approach. What’s key is that local authorities will soon have greater tools at their disposal to revitalise bus services where required.

“Whether it’s local authority run bus services or private operators, there are shared challenges we need to address collectively to put bus at the heart of our green recovery. This is why the Scottish Government is investing over half a billion pounds in long term funding for bus priority infrastructure. This will address the impact that congestion has on bus services, making them quicker and more attractive for passengers. Coupled with the expansion of free bus travel to under 22s and significant investment to encourage a shift to zero-emission buses, we’re responding to the climate emergency by placing buses at the front of our just transition to a net zero society – supporting our world-leading commitment to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030.”