‘COP delegates are getting free buses so why aren’t we?’

Campaigners call for Glasgow residents to be offered free bus travel during the UN climate summit.

Play icon Ross MacDonald via SNS Group

Campaigners say they are “angry” that local residents aren’t being offered free public transport during the COP26 climate summit – even though it’s being provided for delegates.

Around 20,000 delegates are expected to attend the Glasgow conference, alongside high-profile world leaders and public figures such as Joe Biden, the Queen and the Pope.

They will be offered a free travel ‘smartcard’ during the crunch summit, but no such offer is being made to people who live in the city, except for COP26 volunteers.

Campaigners believe that is unfair because roads and cycle lanes will be closed throughout Glasgow during the first two weeks of November.

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Ellie Harrison, from campaign group Free Our City, said: “That’s going to create more division between the people who are allowed in the COP compound and the majority of Glaswegians, who are going to be locked out and massively disrupted by loads of road closures and closures to cycle lanes.”

Planned road closures in Glasgow during the climate summit.Get Ready Glasgow via GCC
Planned road closures in Glasgow during the climate summit.

Free Our City wants free public transport to be made available for everyone in Glasgow and believes COP26 provides the “perfect opportunity” to launch a pilot scheme aimed at reducing transport emissions.

Ms Harrison said: “Glasgow has one of the lowest levels of car ownership in the whole of Britain, so most people who live here rely on public transport anyway.

“Rolling out free public transport would benefit those people who are largely on lower incomes. 

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“It would also give the people who are driving – creating air pollution, creating carbon emissions – an incentive to give up their cars and get on public transport as well.”

Scottish Government travel agency Transport Scotland said it would be closely monitoring how regularly the free smartcards are used during COP.

Nicola Blaney, head of events resilience, said: “We’ll be monitoring the successes of the implementation of the smartcard for the delegates and for the volunteers.

“We will also be monitoring very closely what that means in terms of demand, what that does to the travel data, to the trends, so we’ll be monitoring that for future assessments.”

Ellie Harrison from Free Our City.STV News
Ellie Harrison from Free Our City.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government said it was continuing to review public transport costs for passengers.

A spokesperson said: “We are committed to taking forward our Fair Fares Review to ensure a sustainable and integrated approach to public transport fares. 

“It will look at the range of discounts and concessionary schemes which are available on all modes including bus, rail and ferry and will look at both cost and availability of services.”