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On the Buses

From next month (4 December 2023), local transport authorities (LTAs) in Scotland will have the power to explore the bus partnership and franchising powers contained in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019. Also included with the Act are powers for LTAs to operate municipal bus services. In our latest briefing, we look at bus provision in Scotland and how these powers could be used to improve bus services.

Bus travel remains the most used form of public transport in Scotland (75%). However, it receives less funding than other forms of transport and service cuts are causing real problems for communities that depend on services. Passenger journeys in Great Britain fell by 37% and Scotland by 40% over the past five years.

Bus deregulation in the UK since the 1980s is widely seen as a failure. The big five bus companies dominate 70% of the UK market. They decide which buses to run and when. The new legislation provides an opportunity for reform either by public ownership or franchising.

In this briefing, we argue that the best option is public ownership. Public bus companies can run their buses as a network (as with franchising), but they also have an extra advantage – they can reinvest all their profit instead of handing some of it to shareholders.

Jimmy Reid Foundation Director Dave Watson said;

“New legislation gives an opportunity to radically improve Scotland’s bus services and correct the decline brought about by bus deregulation. While we understand the reasons for the franchising campaign, we believe the focus should be on the best option, municipal ownership, like the Lothian Buses model.”