Scotland losing the battle on sustainable transport


The number of journeys being made by public transport in Scotland fell before the pandemic while vehicle ownership and use reached record levels, official statistics show.

The new data, published in Scottish Transport Statistics 2020, is a further blow to the devolved Government’s efforts to shift the Scottish public from car use to more ‘sustainable’ forms of travel.

The document shows that the number of journeys on public transport in Scotland fell from 517 million in 2018 to 502 million in 2019.


There were 366 million bus journeys in 2019, accounting for 73% of all public transport journeys. The number of bus journeys fell by 3% between 2018 and 2019 and was down 12% over five years.

According to the publication, bus passengers in Scotland saw a 9% increase in fares (over and above general inflation) between 2015 and 2019.

Rail use fell in 2019/20. There were 96.4 million passenger journeys on ScotRail services in that financial year, down 1.4% on 2018/19 but an increase of 4% over five years.

Officials pointed out that as rail passenger numbers are reported on the basis of financial years, the fall in 2019/20 may be explained by the impact of the pandemic on travel demand at the end of that financial year.

Rail journeys made up 19% of public transport journeys in 2019; the remainder were by air (6%) and by ferry (2%). Vehicle ownership and motor traffic continued to increase in 2019, with the number of motor vehicles registered in Scotland reaching 3 million for the first time

A total of 48.7 billion vehicle kilometres were driven by motor vehicles on Scottish roads in 2019, up 1% on 2018. This also represented an increase of 8% over five years and was 10% higher than in 2009.

There were 28.9 million air passengers at Scottish airports in 2019, down 2% in the last year and 20% over five years.

There were 10.4 million passengers on ferry services in 2019, with 8.7 million passengers on routes entirely within Scotland. Ferry passenger numbers increased by 8% over five years.


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