On the buses

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Cathy Peattie has highlighted the shortcomings of public transport in the Falkirk area, and called for action to tackle the problems, including bus regulation.

“Public transport is one of the most persistent and widespread sources of dissatisfaction among my constituents,” she said.

“I wish that First ScotRail would give my constituents a better deal. Fares from Falkirk and Polmont to Edinburgh and Glasgow are more per mile than most. A passenger station in Grangemouth would also be exceedingly welcome.

“Rail might be expensive and serve too few places, but bus travel is undoubtedly the biggest bugbear. If we are serious about tackling climate change and encouraging people to use public transport, we need better buses, more routes and timetables that meet the public’s needs.

“It is too easy to say that there is no demand when the lack of services has forced travellers to use private transport. It is too easy to say that people would rather use their cars and that buses are uncomfortable, inaccessible and expensive. It is also too easy to say that services are not viable when, if the truth be known, they arrive late, leave early and miss connections, if they appear at all.

“People need reliable and affordable public transport that is a pleasure to use, not a nightmare. Without it, we will not achieve our targets for modal shift and climate change.

“To be fair, some bus companies realise their shortcomings and the better among them attempt to take on board passengers’ views, but the bottom line is always profits, not people.

“Competition between bus companies is often imperfect, if it exists at all. In such circumstances, we cannot expect companies to provide adequate self-regulation and to achieve proper integration of public transport. We need Scotland-wide regulation. We also need to address the Scottish Government’s policies, which have left Scotland’s bus operators with higher costs than those in other parts of the United Kingdom and have led to massive fare increases for bus passengers throughout Scotland.

“We have seen a secret deal to extend the rail franchise and higher-than-inflation increases in rail fares. There has also been outrage among users of ferry services on the Clyde, in the northern isles and on most routes in Argyll because of discrimination in ferry fares between islands.

“In particular, we should strive for better provision for older and disabled travellers, and young families with prams and small children. Bus timetables should include information about low-loader and accessible buses. I still hear stories about disabled people waiting an hour or more for an accessible bus. That is not good enough.

“Free bus passes have been very well received by the people of Scotland. I have yet to hear a good reason for not extending concessionary travel to those who are on the lower rate of the disability allowance. We must also address the need for a concessionary travel scheme for those who depend on community transport, and I welcome what the minister said about that. It is time to stop dithering and to regain the momentum to improve public transport in Scotland.”

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