A leading Labour councillor has launched a scathing attack on the decision to cut Greater Glasgow’s bus services and called for the Scottish Government to bring in tighter controls of how bus companies operate.
Drumchapel’s Jonathan Findlay, who chairs Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), raised the issue at a meeting of Glasgow City Council. He said: “Bus services are failing local people and they are getting worse.
“Such cuts, particularly during a recession, are economic, social and environmental madness. How did we get into this mess and how do we get out of it? This is no way to spend public money.”
Following his comments the City Council called on the Scottish Government to table urgent legislation giving councillors the ability to better regulate bus services in their areas. Last week First Glasgow – the main provider of bus services in Clydebank, Drumchapel, Knightswood, Yoker and Scotstoun – unveiled a 28 per cent hike in its short journey fares, with the price for travelling five stops or fewer increasing from 90p to £1.15.
Bus companies have blamed the Scottish Government for price rises, saying a lack of cash from Edinburgh has tied their hands. A cut in the amount of fuel subsidy paid to operators saw First Bus warn it had no choice but to increase fares and slash services, while firms across the industry claim they are out of pocket because the SNP Government does not pay enough to cover free travel for passengers aged over 60.
Ministers capped the amount the government would pay for concessionary fares at £180 million for 2011/12, but the total number of journeys made by people with free bus passes ran to £189 million – leaving bus companies to stump up £9 million from their own funds. Industry insiders say the shortfall for the next two years is likely to be even worse, with firms having to cut services further and raise fares higher to pay for the government’s free travel scheme.
A spokesman for the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents bus operators, said: “It could end up that people who qualify for the concessionary fares have a fantastic scheme in theory but very few buses to travel on.”
In response to the City Council’s criticism of the Scottish Government, the Glasgow SNP group slammed Labour for proposing bus regulation without giving details of how it would be funded. Councillor Graeme Hendry, the SNP business manager, said: “If they tell us where they will make the savings – over half a billion pounds year-on-year to deliver on this – then we will start to take them seriously.”
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