Labour slams bus service provision in Scotland

Labour has called on the SNP to back proposed legislation aimed at strengthening regulation in the bus industry. Picture: Jane Barlow

Labour has called on the SNP to back proposed legislation aimed at strengthening regulation in the bus industry. Picture: Jane Barlow

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LABOUR has attacked a “postcode lottery” in bus services after new figures revealed just 60 per cent of people think public transport access to hospitals is convenient.

Levels of satisfaction fall to 56 per cent for those aged over 60 and 46 per cent for people living in rural communities, according to figures from Transport Scotland.

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The party has called on the SNP to back proposed legislation aimed at strengthening regulation in the bus industry.

Labour MSP Iain Gray’s Bus Regulation (Scotland) Bill would allow local authorities to bundle together profitable and loss-making routes into one franchise that operators could bid for and give authorities a greater say over details such as frequency and fares.

Mary Fee, the party’s spokeswoman for infrastructure, investment and cities, said many people would face difficulty visiting family members in hospital over the festive period.

She said: “Spending any time in hospital can be lonely but during the Christmas and New Year holidays it’s even more important that patients have their family visit as often as possible.

“For many of our most vulnerable Scots, that means relying on public transport which is more interested in generating profits than serving communities.

“The SNP seem to have no interest in our public transport serving the public.

“We have seen this with their cuts to the bus service operators grant; their consistent underfunding of the concessionary travel scheme and their failure to support re-regulation of the bus market.

“This winter should be the last one where the SNP preside over a postcode lottery on public transport.

“They should back Scottish Labour’s bus regulation proposals in 2015.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said Mr Gray’s Bill proposal was being considered and a response would be given “in due course”.

He said: “The present system combines a competitive market with substantial public support and a range of powers for local transport authorities to intervene to secure socially desirable services where these are not being provided commercially.

“Surveys show high levels of user satisfaction overall. However, we are happy to consider constructive proposals for change.

“That is why we will look at the costs and benefits of Mr Gray’s specific proposals carefully in the course of our continuing work with the Bus Stakeholder Group.”

He added: “We have recently concluded a public consultation on possible changes identified by the group to the process for registering bus services with the Traffic Commissioner.

“These are aimed at creating more opportunity for dialogue and partnership between operators and local authorities.

“We are analysing the responses with a view to implementation over the course of next year.”

SNP MSP Jim Eadie said: “It is the SNP Government which is funding and delivering the vital free bus travel policy while Labour have wielded the axe over the entire scheme for over two years now - with free travel for over 60s, disabled people and veterans facing the chop as part of their Cuts Commission.

“This scheme helps people across Scotland make vital journeys across Scotland all year round - the SNP are committed to the free bus pass and at long last Labour must come clean on their threats to scrap it.”

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