SPT considers local bus franchising in Scotland

The transport body said the move could cost £15m and take up to seven years.

SPT considers local bus franchising across Glasgow and west of Scotland STV News

The body responsible for transport across much of western Scotland is to consider local bus franchising.

The Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) said it will “move forward” with the proposals at its board meeting on Friday.

It said that would include plans to solve the area’s short-term and long-term transport issues.

The SPT said local bus franchsiing could offer the “greatest certainty for the best outcomes” for passengers.

But it said that would take between five and seven years and cost around £15m to complete.

McGill’s, the UK’s largest independent bus company, reacted furiously to the plans.

CEO Ralph Roberts claimed it would cost the taxpayer £100m a year and said it would amount to “theft of a private business”.

“With a £1bn black hole in the Scottish economy, I cannot imagine how they are going to find £100m per year to subsidise franchised bus services in Strathclyde,” he said.

“Franchising is effectively confiscation of a business that has been built in good faith over many years with investors funds and it raises a host of legal implications, including issues under Article 1 of ECHR.

“It goes against every sense of natural justice and we would take this to every court in the land and beyond.

“Franchising can be introduced in a different way and our opposition to it will be absolute until the threat of theft of a private business is lifted.

“Bus use is declining because local authorities haven’t done their job to help bus users. I see nothing from franchising that will change this and unless councillors are willing to make the kind of tough decisions made in other places, particularly in prioritising buses over private cars, then this will be a very expensive waste of money for the taxpayer.”

Roberts added: “Our advice is simple and based on proven experience from around the world – remove buses from congestion and take business confiscation off the table.

“These two simple steps will build trust and show that this is about bus users rather than a power trip for politicians and quangos, most of whom never set foot on a bus.”

‘The facts are we need to do something now to halt the declining bus market’

SPT chief executive Valerie Davidson said: “The recommendations being taken forward to the SPT Partnership for wider consultation sets a strong approach to tackle a declining bus market, build for growth, and deliver a network that is attractive, accessible, and affordable to passengers and communities. 

“While local bus franchising offers the greatest certainty for the best outcomes, it will take time to establish, and maintaining the status quo in that time is not sustainable.

“The facts are we need to do something now to halt the declining bus market and Bus Service Improvements Partnerships, supported by suitable investment, offer scope for significant an interim improvement which could start that work while we begin the process of establishing a local franchise model and start to build for growth. 

“I encourage everyone with an interest in the future of bus services in the region to participate in our upcoming consultation and let us know what you think of our proposed options for the future of bus in the region.”

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland said: “The Scottish Government has now delivered all the bus powers within the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 to enable local transport authorities to consider all the powers available to them, including partnership working, franchising and local authority run services which sit alongside their ability to subsidise services.

“The bus provisions in the 2019 Act empower local transport authorities with the flexible tools they need to respond to their own transport challenges and we welcome SPT’s decision to explore all available bus powers as part of their Strathclyde Regional Bus Strategy.

“We encourage all local transport authorities to consider the full range of tools available to them under the 2019 Act, to ensure that everyone has accessible public transport regardless of where they are in Scotland.

“It is the decision for each local transport authority to determine which powers are suitable to improve services in their specific area.”

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