Transport Secretary ‘concerned’ about fall in bus use by the public

Train and car use in Scotland has increased but the number of bus journeys has fallen, new transport figures show.

Vehicles travelled almost 30 billion miles on Scottish roads in 2017-18 according to Transport Scotland, a 3% increase on the previous year.

Car journeys accounted for approximately 22.5 billion miles, with the 2% rise being criticised for increasing congestion and air pollution.

“Bold action must be taken to address the thousands of deaths attributable to poor air quality every year,” Scottish Greens transport spokesman John Finnie MSP said.

“Continued inaction is irresponsible, and those who would deny local authorities the powers necessary to save lives should seriously reflect on their position.”

There were 525 million public transport journeys made by bus, rail, air and ferry in Scotland last year, one million more than 2016-17.

Commenting on the findings, Scotland’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Today’s statistics illustrate why our current policies to develop a more sustainable transport network in Scotland are so important.

“I believe that through the steps we are taking to empower local authorities and support greener travel, we can work together to shift behaviour by encouraging more people out of their cars and on to public transport, walking and cycling.”

Michael Matheson ministerial statement
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson highlighted the importance of a sustainable transport network (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Although 74% of journeys on public transport were made by bus in 2017/18, there were five million fewer bus journeys than the previous year – a 1.5% drop.

Mr Matheson added: “Although the majority of public transport trips are made by bus, I remain concerned that bus use continues to fall – and this is a trend we see across the UK.

“We are continuing to spend over £250 million a year to support our vital bus industry, working with operators to keep fares at affordable levels and providing free bus travel to older and disabled passengers.

“Additionally, the forthcoming Transport Bill will empower local authorities by providing options to improve bus services in their areas, giving them a greater choice in how to deliver a sustainable bus network for customers.”

Passenger journeys on ScotRail services increased by 4% to 97.8 million, an increase of 31% since 2007-08, despite plummeting punctuality performance.

Scots’ satisfaction with public transport as a whole has decreased by 3% in the last year, with 69% of people saying they were very or fairly satisfied with services.

Mr Finnie added: “I am delighted to see Scotland’s railways become ever-more popular. One only wonders how many journeys they could host if services were delivered by a competent operator.”

Just 3% of Scots usually cycle to work, while 67.7% of people commute by car.

Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson Mike Rumbles said: “Sadly the figures published today highlight how little the Scottish Government is doing to promote active travel in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government has failed to deliver on its own targets on cycling.

“Since the SNP came to power the share of journeys made by bicycle has only increased by 0.7%. That just shows the complete lack of imagination in the SNP administration. Their 10% target now seems nothing more than another broken promise.”