MSP claims only public ownership can prevent collapse of bus services

South Scotland list Colin Smyth claims the bus network in Dumfries and Galloway will collapse unless a public sector-led model is adopted.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 2:19 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 2:19 pm
Colin Smyth introduced an amendment to the Transport Act which gave councils the power to run bus services
Colin Smyth introduced an amendment to the Transport Act which gave councils the power to run bus services

This comes after the Communities Committee at Dumfries and Galloway Council agreed to pursue a new “partnership approach” between the private and public sector to try to sustain bus services.

A report to the committee describes the current mixture of private and public funded services as “disjointed, inefficient, costly and difficult to navigate for individuals”.

In 2019 the Scottish Parliament passed a new Transport Act that gives councils a range of new powers.

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Thanks to amendments introduced by Mr Smyth, councils will soon have the power to run bus services directly or through setting up arms-length municipal bus companies.

Currently the only publicly owned municipal bus company in Scotland is Lothian Buses, whose existence pre-dates deregulation.

Mr Smyth said: “In recent years we have seen the bus network being dismantled route by route, fares have risen and passenger numbers plummeted.

“These cuts have been felt most by our rural communities, but have also affected everyone trying to travel at nights and weekends.

“The pandemic has exacerbated the fall in passenger numbers and without urgent action there is no doubt the network will collapse.

“I am pleased the council intends to take a more proactive role in local bus services. That will hopefully at least delay the loss of some services and try to fill gaps left when private firms pull out.

“Public transport is a public service, and like all public services it should be accessible to all and be publicly owned and run.

"At the moment the council spends over £3m a year subsidising private bus firms. I would hope to see the council use that money to run bus services themselves, and not just on routes the private firms don't want.

“The most successful bus service in Scotland is Lothian buses, with every penny made going back into local transport services.

"Only by eventually adopting such a public sector led network can we stop the collapse of bus services in Dumfries and Galloway.”