Bus services in Scotland are on “the brink of collapse” due to unreliable and unaffordable fares, Scottish Labour has said.
The party is urging the Scottish Government to introduce a cap on fares to prevent people seeking alternative transport.
Some 130 operators in England have signed up to cap fares at £2 for the first three months of the year, and Scottish Labour’s transport spokesman Neil Bibby has urged Scotland to follow suit.
The Scottish Government said its concessionary bus travel schemes are the most generous in the UK, with under-22s, over-60s, and people with disabilities eligible for free travel.
Passenger bus journeys in Scotland decreased by 65% in 2020/21 to 127 million, compared with 363 million the previous year, according to Transport Scotland data.
In 2007/08, 487 million passenger journeys were recorded.
Covid-19 pandemic restrictions are likely to have contributed to the decline.
Statistics also showed that fares in Scotland have increased by 6% in real terms over the last five years, compared with a UK increase of 3%.
Bibby said: “The bus services people need every day to get to their work and move around their communities are on the brink of collapse.
“As a result, more and more people are being forced into cars by unreliable and overpriced services.
“In order to get people back on the buses, we should follow the lead Labour mayors have set in England to cap fares and make public transport affordable once again.
“In Edinburgh, council-owned Lothian Buses’ single fares are just £1.80, but elsewhere in Scotland passengers are paying rip-off fares to private bus companies, such as £2.65 for a two-mile journey in Greater Glasgow.
“Our communities, our economy and our planet need a working bus network which is affordable and reliable. Services will continue to decline unless we take serious action and provide better, cheaper buses.”
A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “We invest £300m annually to deliver free bus travel for all children and young people under 22, as well as for eligible disabled people and everyone aged 60 and over.
“This means Scotland has the most generous concessionary fare scheme in the UK, with more than 2.3 million people eligible for free bus travel – encouraging more people to choose to take the bus and helping us meet our net-zero targets by encouraging a shift away from cars.
“We are progressing the Fair Fares Review to ensure a sustainable and integrated approach to fares that supports the long-term viability of our public transport system as we recover from the pandemic.
“The review is considering both the cost and availability of services and the range of discounts and concessionary schemes which are available on all modes including bus, rail and ferry.
“It will develop and assess options to create a fairer, more transparent system of fares across all modes that maintain and increase affordability for those who need it most.”