First Bus is being urged to reconsider its “extremely disappointing” decision to scrap night buses in Glasgow, as opponents claim the move raises “huge safety implications”.
The bus operator has announced its intention to axe its night bus services — reintroduced in June last year to boost the night-time economy post-pandemic — from July 31.
First claimed the routes are no longer financially viable and passenger numbers would need to treble to sustain the services.
But Glasgow councillors and charities want the operator to reverse its decision and have called for services to be reformed.
Glasgow Greens said safer, more sustainable transport options are “needed more than ever”. The group’s transport spokeswoman, councillor Christy Mearns, said there is “a need and a demand for night buses”.
“It would seem more sensible for services to be reviewed to better meet customer needs and increase uptake, rather than slashed entirely,” she said. “It’s vital that all partners urgently come together to figure out how the service can be retained and improved.”
Cllr Mearns called the decision “an extremely disappointing backwards step”. “For Glasgow to reduce car dependency and have a thriving night-time economy, we must have a public transport system that meets this ambition,” she added.
First Glasgow said the decision had been made following a 12-month monitoring period of passenger numbers, which had shown services were often operating with as few as 14 passengers per hour.
The Greens said some routes, such as the N38 and N57, only travel from the city centre southbound at night, cutting off communities in the north and east of the city.
They also want young people to be able to use their under-22 national entitlement cards for free travel on late night routes.
Councillor Anthony Carroll said: “Our daytime routes are well known, and if we replicated those, at least in those central hubs in our communities then perhaps the familiarity can help increase uptake overnight.
“Locking large parts of our city out of our transport network late at night serves no one in Glasgow. It’s time these public transport providers start running our buses in the public interest.”
Glasgow Greens equalities spokeswoman, councillor Holly Bruce, said axing services will have “huge safety implications for women, vulnerable people and people of marginalised genders”.
She said the change would restrict “access to jobs, healthcare and socialising”.
“The evidence is clear; Glaswegians want more, not less, evening services that are affordable, accessible, safe and convenient,” cllr Bruce said.
Glasgow Labour leader George Redmond said: “I’m deeply worried by this decision. Not only will this have a toll on the city centre economy but it’ll reduce safety for women and the vulnerable.
“First Bus must reconsider its decision.”
The bus company said it had continued to run the services despite significant losses but, despite promotional efforts including free tickets in December, passenger numbers had remained between 30% and 35%.
Graeme Macfarlan, commercial director at First Bus Scotland, said: “We really wanted to give these services every chance to succeed which is why we have absorbed the operating losses for the last 12 months.
“It has become clear, however, given the change in behaviour and times people are going out in the city at the weekend, there is not enough appetite in Glasgow for night bus services to successfully operate into the early hours.”
Peter Kelly, director at the Poverty Alliance, a charity, said the plan was “completely unjust” and will “hit Glaswegians on low income the hardest — people who work night shifts and early shifts in the kind of jobs that are already undervalued”.
“These services should be accountable to those who rely on them most,” he added. “It doesn’t have to be like this. The Scottish Government can fund free bus travel for people who need it most — and get everyone aboard on the road to a freer, fairer, greener Scotland.”
Mr Kelly also said the Scottish Government could “properly fund and support local councils and community transport providers” so they can “run their own bus services and return to treating buses as a basic public good”.
First’s planned change will impact 11 routes across the city, which operate in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings.
The night buses cover travel from the city centre across Glasgow and the surrounding areas including Clydebank, Paisley, Newton Mearns, East Kilbride, Hamilton, Motherwell and Wishaw.