The Scottish Government is facing calls for bus services to be re-regulated to provide councils with powers to help tackle the withdrawal of services.
Patricia Ferguson, Labour MSP for Maryhill and Springburn, called on transport minister David Mackay to give communities greater control of bus provision.
‘I am sure that I am not the only constituency or list MSP whose communities have been blighted over the years by the relatively fast withdrawal of bus services from local communities, including most recently the M3 and 10 buses in my constituency,’ she told MSPs.
‘It seems to me that transport authorities are also hidebound in this regard, because their current guidance means that they have no opportunity to intervene when there is another or a similar service operating in the area, which is the case with the two services that I mentioned.’
The Scotsman reports that Mr McKay said the Government had no plans for wholesale re-regulation but called for closer partnership working between operators and transport authorities.
As with England outside London, bus fares and routes are set by the private sector operators in Scotland, which run the majority of bus services.
An annual subsidy of £66.5m is paid by Transport Scotland to the bus industry to help keep fares at affordable levels and enable bus operators to run non-commercial services.
Bus provision was deregulated under the Transport Act 1985, allowing different firms to compete with each other on individual routes and ending monopolies.
A spokesman for the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), which represents bus and coach firms, said: “Further regulation of bus services would lead to increased bus fares and higher bills for taxpayers across Scotland. CPT strongly believes that the best way to further improve bus services for passengers in Scotland is by closer partnership working between operators and local authorities.
'Local government has a vital role to play in helping deliver better bus services by tackling the issue of traffic congestion in our towns and cities, freeing up road space to maximise the environmental and economic benefits that the bus can bring.
'Local bus fares in Scotland are lower than the UK average and the most recent survey by consumer group Transport Focus found that around nine out of 10 of bus customers surveyed in Scotland were satisfied with bus services. Scotland’s bus industry is working hard to deliver for Scotland’s passengers and will continue to do so.'
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