The Scottish and Welsh Governments have confirmed their positions on bus funding for the 2024-2025 period. In Scotland, almost £2.5 billion has been allocated for public transport to provide viable alternatives to car use, plus an increased investment of £220 million in active travel to promote walking, wheeling and cycling.
The Scottish Finance Secretary Shona Robison MSP said: “It is an enormous privilege to present my first Budget. A Budget setting out, in tough times, to protect people, sustain public services, support a growing, sustainable economy, and address the climate and nature emergencies. At its heart is our social contract with the people of Scotland, where those with the broadest shoulders are asked to contribute a little more. Where everyone can have access to universal services and entitlements, and those in need of an extra helping hand will receive targeted additional support.
“We cannot mitigate every cut made by the UK Government. But through the choices we have made, we have been true to our values and rigorous in prioritising our investment where it will have the most impact. We choose investment in our people and public services. This is a Budget that reflects our shared values as a nation and speaks to the kind of Scotland that we want to be.”
Transport Scotland and its subsidiaries are focused on delivering the Scottish Government’s vision for transport as set out in its National Transport Strategy, which includes maintaining and safely operating existing systems, providing funding to key public transport services including bus, rail, and ferries as well as maintaining and improving the Scottish trunk road network, including the A9 dualling programme.
It is planned to continue to encourage modal shift to public transport through initiatives like the Young Persons’ Free Bus Travel Scheme, with over 100 million free bus journeys made by people aged under 22 across Scotland, as well as making progress on new commitments to asylum seekers using buses and young people on ferries.
“We will continue to take actions on net zero in the transport sector, through initiatives such as the Scottish Zero Emission Bus Challenge Fund and Community Bus Fund, the rolling programme of rail electrification, the vision for Scotland’s public Electric Vehicle Charging network and continued record investment in active travel to deliver a shift from driving to walking, wheeling and cycling for short everyday journeys,” the finance minister said.
“We will focus our resources on particularly critical areas of our net zero ambition, such as heat in buildings and ensuring our public transport system is maintained to provide an alternative to car use.”
Spending plans show £370.4m allocated for concessionary fares in 2024-25, a rise of some £11.1m, plus £55.5m in support for bus services, down by £7m, with total support coming to almost £429m, including £3.9m of support for the country’s smartcard programme.
In Wales, the Welsh Government has said that it will protect revenue support for the nation’s bus network as part of its Draft Budget announcement, ensuring that more than £120m of support will be invested in bus services in 2024/25. However, the way the funding will be allocated will change, with discounted young persons’ travel, bus service support and concessionary fare reimbursement coming together in the same field.
Welcoming the announcement, at a time when operators and passengers were fearful of what might happen to some services when Welsh Bus Transition Funding ran out at the end of April, Aaron Hill, Director of CPT Cymru, said: “We are pleased to see that Welsh Government has been able to maintain investment levels and provide much-needed certainty for bus services in Wales. In recent months, operators have seen strong growth on many services, but without additional investment from Welsh Government, the reality is many services would have ceased from April.
“It will be challenging to protect all services in the context of increasing costs, but operators will now work closely with local authorities and Welsh Government to safeguard the best possible network for local passengers.”