Scots use public transport less but get on their bikes


The number of journeys by public transport in Scotland has fallen again, according to official statistics, while car vehicle mileage continues to rise.

The Scottish Transport Statistics suggest that the devolved government is losing its battle to shift people from cars to public transport – a major issue in the debate over the SNP administration’s efforts to pass its budget.

On Wednesday (26 February) the Scottish Government announced that it had reached agreement with the Scottish Green Party, which would deliver a National Concessionary Travel scheme offering free bus travel for people aged 18 and under, £15m for active travel and £5m towards improving rail services.

However, the new statistics estimate that the distance cycled on the Scottish road network increased by 8% to 313 million vehicle kilometres between 2017/18 and 2018/19.


The number of journeys made by public transport in the country fell from 525 million to 517 million over the same period.

Bus journeys, which accounted for 73% of all public transport journeys, or 380 million passenger journeys, fell by 2% and are down 10% over the past 5 years.

There were 97.8 million passenger journeys on ScotRail services in 2018/19, the same as in 2017/18 but an increase of 13% compared with 5 years ago.

However, the distance driven by motor vehicles on Scottish roads increased by 10% over the past five years to reach 47.8 billion vehicle kilometres.

Cars drove a total of 36.4 billion vehicle kilometres in 2018/19, up 0.6% on the previous year, while the number of motor vehicles registered in the country is at an all-time high of 3.0 million.

There were 29.4 million air passengers at Scottish airports in 2018, an increase of 2% in the last year and 27% over the past five years.

There were 10.3 million passengers on ferry services in 2018, with 8.5 million passengers on routes entirely within Scotland. Ferry passenger numbers have increased by 6% over the past five years.

Transport Scotland stated that the statistics were produced by independent statistical staff free from any political interference, in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

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