Call for better bus services supported by councillors

A call for better, democratically accountable bus services across Strathclyde has been supported by members of Inverclyde Council.

At a meeting of the council on Thursday 7 December 2023, councillors agreed a motion by Councillor Paul Cassidy, seconded by Councillor Martin McCluskey, for the authority to write to SPT and the Scottish Government regarding bus provision across the area.

The council agreed with the motion that: “A new model of bus provision for Strathclyde must be developed that is integrated and democratically accountable.”

It also called on the Scottish Government to support local authorities and transport authorities which are looking into replacing deregulated bus systems with models of regulation or common ownership, with fair funding and regulation.

Bus deregulation was brought in following the Transport Act 1985 which took services out of public ownership and into private businesses.

Councillor Cassidy welcome the support for his motion. He said: “Bus services are an essential public service and I welcome the support of fellow members in recognising this and in calling for radical transformation change to our bus network. Our bus market has been failing passengers, the public, and failing to meet its own objectives. 

“Only where bus services are run on different principles do we see radical change. You just have to look at London where bus regulation is at a high standard, Lothian Buses in Edinburgh and the recently launched Bee Network in Manchester, pioneered by the Mayor Andy Burnham, to see that regulation and franchising can work well. 

“We can and should do things differently, the need for a departure from the current deregulated market is clear. It's time for a comprehensive overhaul of the dysfunctional bus market, shifting our focus from profit to passengers.

"We must establish an indispensable public service that is not only modern, integrated, and affordable but also well-coordinated through a franchise network designed to cater to the needs of the people of Inverclyde." 

The full text of the motion for Better Buses for Strathclyde is as follows:

This Council notes: • The ‘Strathclyde Regional Bus Strategy and Delivery Plan: Case for Change’ report presented to Strathclyde Partnership for Transport’s Board on 29 September 2023.

 • That the evidence-based report has found that bus use is in ‘sustained, long-term decline’ in Strathclyde, with bus patronage, the size of bus networks, bus service frequency and network coverage all falling.

• That despite decline in bus networks, bus fares continue to rise in Strathclyde at a higher rate than inflation and at a higher rate than the cost of travelling by other modes of transport.

• That the current model of bus service has failed to deliver integrated London-style ticketing or an integrated approach to public transport planning.

• That in 2021/22 public sector support represented 56 per cent of bus operator revenues in Scotland.

• The new powers available to transport authorities under the 2019 Transport Act.

• The calls from the ‘Better Buses for Strathclyde’ campaign for the SPT Board to ensure its Bus strategy sets out clear plans to use these new powers to improve bus services in Strathclyde.

• The recently published Centre for Cities report ‘Miles Better: Improving public transport in the Glasgow City Region’, which calls for the franchising of the bus network supported by a 10-year funding deal from the Scottish Government.

This Council believes: • The current deregulated model of bus provision is inadequate and that there is now a compelling case for changing the model of bus provision across Strathclyde.

• A new model of bus provision will enable bus services and public transport across Strathclyde to contribute more towards a healthier environment, inclusive economic growth and an improved quality of life for the people and communities of Strathclyde.

This Council agrees to write to SPT and the Scottish Government to communicate its view that:

• A new model of bus provision for Strathclyde must be developed that is integrated and democratically accountable.

• A new model of bus provision must contribute towards Regional Transport Strategy objectives and policies set out by SPT.

• The Scottish Government must support local authorities and transport authorities seeking to replace deregulated bus models with models of regulation or common ownership, with fair funding and regulation that respects the autonomy and democratic wishes of Scotland’s communities and regions.”

Councillor Martin McCluskey, who seconded the motion, added: “Bus transport is the most popular form of transport across Scotland, but right now it's not properly meeting the needs of passengers. What we want is a fully integrated transport system which serves people across the country, and not a patchwork service. 

“I, like many of my colleagues across the council, receive enquiries from people whenever changes are made to local bus services. But we have no power over the bus services that are crucial for people's lives and the health of our local economy. 

“We need change and we need support from the Scottish Government to make that change.”

The motion was carried by 20 votes to 2.

The full council meeting is available to watch on the Inverclyde Council YouTube channel and associated papers are on the council website. Both links are in the top right column.