Plea for night buses to be included in free travel scheme for under 22s

A student complained that excluding late night services from the scheme could put people at risk if they opted to walk home.

Plea for night buses to be included in free travel scheme for under 22s iStock

Free bus travel for young people should be expanded to include night buses, the Liberal Democrats have said.

Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie has challenged the Scottish Government to provide local authorities with the funding to make this happen, after an Edinburgh University student raised concerns with him.

Mary Kennedy complained that excluding late night services from the free travel scheme could put people at risk if they instead opted to walk home.

In a letter to Rennie, transport minister Jenny Gilruth told him that “some services which charge a premium rate, provide a special amenity, or services which are difficult to align with routine services and fare structures do not meet the criteria set out in the scheme legislation” for free bus journeys for under 22s.

She added: “Unfortunately that does include services which operate through the night at a premium fare.”

Rennie said: “Young people are more likely to have jobs or social engagements that require them to travel home late at night so excluding the night buses from the free travel card is an odd decision.

“Sadly, we know that walking home late at night is not risk free, so removing the cost from these journeys could make a big difference.”

He added: “I have written to the transport minister to press the case for this to happen but sadly, at the moment the Scottish Government are just leaving this in the hands of already overstretched councils.

“The Scottish Government need to make sure that councils are properly resourced to allow free travel on all services.

“I will keep pressing ministers to make this happen.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Almost all registered local bus services in Scotland are eligible for the National Concessionary Travel Schemes.

“However, some services which charge a premium rate, provide a special amenity, or services which are difficult to align with routine services and fare structures do not meet the criteria set out in the scheme legislation.

“Unfortunately that does include services which operate through the night at a premium fare.”

He said Transport Scotland is undertaking an evaluation which includes the consideration of personal safety and gender when travelling by bus, adding: “We will be monitoring views on this, including any potential barriers to the scheme over the course of the evaluation.

“Reports from this evaluation will be published when complete.

“The Transport Minister recently announced a focused engagement looking specifically at improving women’s experience and safety across public transport being taken forward by the Scottish Government.

“Initial discussions with Engender and women’s organisations will inform how we can best take forward this important work.”

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