A Bus Taskforce for Scotland should be established to allow collaborative working towards the industry’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is according to Chair of the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) Operations Committee Cllr David Wilson. He has called for the establishment of a taskforce as part of a wider plea to the Scottish Government to put transport “front and centre” of the Scottish Budget when it is delivered on 28 January.
Cllr Wilson says that he has already asked Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Matheson to establish a Bus Taskforce for Scotland “so that we can work together to develop a collective, coordinated and multifaceted response to the crisis facing public transport across Scotland.”
He notes that bus patronage in some areas of Scotland is currently up to 80% lower than before the pandemic. The Scottish Government continues to provide funding to operators to cover the resulting loss of revenue.
However, it “must now think beyond subsidy and ensure that transport is front and centre of the budget, as it will play a key role in getting our economy and lives back to normal when this is finally over,” says Cllr Wilson.
He adds that the early work of a Bus Taskforce for Scotland could include:
- A review of the Transport Act and the opportunities presented by Bus Service Improvement Partnerships
- How the Programme for Government pledge regarding the Scottish National Investment Bank and funding for zero-emission buses can be supported
- How greater equality can be created for areas that do not have access to the bus services that they need to participate in inclusive economic growth.
“The role of public transport in our everyday lives remains essential. As our lives return to normal, we must do all we can together to reassure and inspire confidence in the public to return to these key modes of travel,” says Cllr Wilson.
The Scottish Government has already allocated over £500m to bus priority measures. That funding will be delivered by Transport Scotland through a competitive Bus Partnership Fund.
More recently, a second round of the Scottish Ultra Low Emission Bus Scheme was announced. It will see £25m go towards the purchase of further zero-emission buses.