Labour Launches Bill to Improve Bus Services
Former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray MSP today (10 January) announced his intention to bring a Private Members Bill to Parliament to strengthen regulation of the bus industry.
The Bill will give local authorities the power to “bundle” profitable and loss making (but socially desirable) routes together, to be tendered in a “quality contract” or franchise. These contracts would include a framework to specify routes, timetables, fares and vehicle quality. They would also allow the performance of bus companies to be more directly monitored.
This moves on from a previous attempt by former MSP Charlie Gordon to legislate, which fell because Labour was the sole party willing to support the measure.
Iain Gray said: “Bus journeys have decreased in recent years, but they are by far the commonest means of public transport in Scotland with many more journeys by bus than by rail. Yet successive SNP governments have given little attention or support to Scotland’s buses, cutting government funding of bus routes and continuing to invest more money in rail journeys.
“As a result we have seen services reduced or even withdrawn across Scotland, and inflation-busting fare increases imposed on passengers.
“Previous Labour administrations introduced the power to use “Quality Bus Partnerships” (QBP) or “Quality Bus Contracts” (QBC). However, no local authority has ever used the QBC legislation, although there is one QBP in Renfrew, which has been a great success.
“It is time to accept that the existing legislation has not worked, and put it right so that bus passengers throughout Scotland can expect a decent, regular, affordable bus service.”
Scottish Labour’s Richard Simpson, MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife has given the bill his full support, saying: “Bus services play an integral role for many communities in our area, allowing them easy and affordable access to the towns and cities where they can reach local services. It is one of the most frequently raised issues by constituents, highlighting the need to legislate to protect the services.
“The current system of deregulated, free market bus services has led to expensive and unreliable provision for many, and for some no service at all. Further to this, bus services can be a vital source of employment for many individuals and families in Scotland, be it through allowing affordable travel to reach jobs, or through employment by bus companies themselves. At times when jobs are scarce protecting routes and therefore jobs will, I am sure, be welcomed.”
Jackson Cullinane, of Unite the Union, said: “We believe this Bill will provide a better bus service for thousands of working people across Scotland and address the gaps in services which are currently failing many communities.
“We are also supportive of enhancing the role of local authorities and community groups in the operation of bus services to ensure services are tailored to the needs of those who use them, not just the most profitable journeys for the bus companies.”
The first stage of the legislative process will be a consultation on the detail of the Bill, in the first half of 2013.