A Fair deal for Scotland’s bus users
7 October 2016 • Author(s): Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland
In the forthcoming issue of EuroTransport Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, shares his concerns about the future of Scotland’s bus industry while highlighting its value both to society, the economy and the environment.
Despite still providing three-quarters of all public transport trips, the decline of the bus continues. This is partly due to the fact that bus services are not given the political support or high profile attention they deserve. It was for this reason that the ‘Bus Fair’ campaign was launched; to turn greater attention to improving the standing of bus services in transport discussions, and draw attention to the measures needed to reverse this negative trend. Most of all they wanted to highlight the fairness aspects of transport investment.
Questions asked of Scottish government
The current big issue in Scottish transport is the Scottish government’s proposals for halving and then abolishing Air Passenger Duty – a policy that will bring disproportionate financial benefits for frequent flyers on higher incomes. The question must therefore be posed; how will this be funded?
With rail and ferry franchise payments locked in, and with an ever-expanding roads programme, will the Scottish government turn to the bus budget to fund its aviation subsidies? This would negatively impact the young and elderly, women (who are 1.5 times more likely to use buses than men), as well as those in lower income groups.
For Scotland to have a ‘fair’ transport policy, it is imperative that more attention is given to improving conditions for bus travellers.
In his article Colin states that the bus industry should be seen as a major Scottish success story; the country being home to international transport companies, award-winning bus operators, and a major bus manufacturing industry. In FirstGroup and Stagecoach, headquartered in Aberdeen and Perth respectively, we have two of the UK’s largest companies. Meanwhile, in Alexander Dennis, we have the UK’s largest bus and coach manufacturer and a market leader in low carbon and zero emission technologies.
While addressing the unquestionable success story that is the Scottish bus industry, Colin highlights the key challenges that he considers face the government in ensuring the future survival and success of the bus industry.
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Colin Howden has managed Transform Scotland since 1998 and has, in that time, published widely on all aspects of sustainable transport policy and practice. From 2009 to 2012 he was Board Member and Treasurer of the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E), Transform Scotland’s European umbrella body. Colin has been active in the environmental movement for over 20 years and was, until recently, a Board Member of Friends of the Earth Scotland. Prior to joining Transform Scotland Colin studied economics at Aberdeen and Manchester universities.
Transform Scotland is the national alliance for sustainable transport, bringing together organisations from private, public and voluntary sectors. It aims to encourage the public to make better use of public transport (as well as get them walking and cycling) and also move freight transport from roads to rail and sea, via research, various events and campaigns.