Scottish Labour has pledged to try and bring back regulation to the Scottish bus market, to tackle declining passenger numbers, rising fares and company cut backs.
In a new report from Labour, Profits before Passengers, the party attacks the leading Scottish National Party (SNP) and claims the system needs to be re-regulated, allowing local authorities powers to set routes and fares.
‘Working together, communities and councils should be able to negotiate a comprehensive contract with bus companies that will ensure operators not only get to run the most profitable routes, but also have to provide vital local services as part of the overall deal. That’s how it works in London and if it’s good enough for London its good enough for Scotland,’ the report states.
Bus journeys have fallen by 74 million since 2007/2008, a drop of 15% since the SNP came to power.
The fall in the number of bus journeys in Scotland in the last five years has been 10 times greater than across Great Britain Labour claims, with Great Britain losing 1% of journeys compared to Scotland’s 10%.
Meanwhile bus fares have increased by 18% over the past five years and the SNP has overseen a 20% reduction in the Bus Service Operators Grant, equivalent to a cut of £13m - a grant used to protect unprofitable but socially important routes.
The news comes as Westminster is attempting to re-introduce regulation under the Bus Services Bill.
Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Neil Bibby said: ‘Labour would reverse the decline in bus services by re-regulating the bus industry, and will launch a campaign for better bus services across Scotland.
'The SNP used to support this policy but dropped it just before they formed a government in 2007. As a consequence, passengers across Scotland have had to endure almost a full decade of deterioration in valued and vital bus services.’
Labour has previously sought cross-party support for a Regulation of Bus Services Bill, and been rejected by the SNP.
The opposition party also raised eyebrows at the relationship between the SNP and Stagecoach owner Brian Souter, who has donated £2m to the party since 2007. Stagecoach is a well-known critic of bus regulation.
A spokesperson for the minister for transport and islands, Humza Yousaf, said: ‘While we have no plans for wholesale re-regulation, we are committed to promoting positive change and partnership working to improve bus services and are currently developing proposals for a transport bill which will include measures to further improve bus services.’
Former transport minister Derek Mackay previously told Transport Network that wholesale re-regulation of the bus market would 'create a degree of chaos', adding that Scottish councils 'don't have the capacity' to take on franchising powers.