Scotland Transport Bill introduces new powers to improve bus services

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Local authorities will be granted additional powers to improve bus services when the Bill is implemented. FIRST BUS

‘We will not stand by as bus passenger numbers decline,’ says Transport Minister

Scotland’s Government announced on Monday June 11 the ‘most radical measures since devolution’ to make the country’s transport network cleaner, smarter and more accessible.

The Transport (Scotland) Bill aims to grant local authorities additional powers and establish consistent standards – enabling Scotland to tackle current and future challenges and deliver a more ‘sustainable and consistent’ transport system nationwide.

Proposed measures in the Bill include:

  • Providing local authorities and Regional Transport Partnerships (RTPs) with the flexibility to improve bus services through partnership working with operators or, where there is a good case for doing so, local franchising or running services themselves;
  • Enabling the creation and decriminalised enforcement of Low Emission Zones;
  • Standardising smart ticketing technology to ensure compatibility, and setting in place an advisory body to best support interoperable Scotland-wide smart ticketing; and
  • Allowing RTPs to build up and carry appropriate financial reserves.

Scotland’s Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, commented: “The Transport Bill reflects a period of significant public consultation and engagement. It responds to the views of passengers and stakeholders by providing local authorities and RTPs with the tools to address local needs.

“This government will not stand by as bus passenger numbers decline. Partnership is at the centre of our proposals, with a new model for local authorities to work with bus operators to revitalise services.

“We are also providing clearer options for authorities to pursue local franchising or provide services themselves in appropriate circumstances.

“By strengthening the technology and governance which underpins smart ticketing, people will be able to move between our cities with greater ease and convenience.

“By empowering local authorities and continuing to work in partnership with transport operators, we will continue to develop a cleaner, smarter public transport system with improved connectivity, accessibility and greater economic benefits for all of Scotland.”

Meanwhile, Bus Users UK has welcomed the new Scottish Transport Bill, saying it could pave the way for a new deal for Scotland’s bus passengers.

Gavin Booth, Director for Bus Users Scotland, told CBW: “We believe that the emphasis on partnership will benefit passengers. From our complaints and monitoring work we know that reliability and punctuality are the two aspects of bus travel in Scotland that most concern bus passengers.

“Practical partnerships involving bus operators and local authorities could address these issues by tackling congestion, which in Scotland’s urban areas is the main contributory factor to bus service delays.

“Many bus passengers are less concerned about who owns and runs the buses than they are about reliability and punctuality, which is where good partnerships could help.

“We hope that initiatives made possible by this Bill will encourage more people to use their local buses.”