Scotland franchising: Glasgow should be first, says report

A report has concluded that Glasgow should be the first Scottish city to enact bus franchising.

Entitled ‘Miles better: Improving public transport in the Glasgow city region’, the report was published by Centre for Cities, an independent research organisation aiming to improving the economies of the UK’s largest cities and towns. It was released in partnership with Get Glasgow Moving and funded through the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places (SCSP) Open Fund.

The report says Glasgow’s economic potential is held back in part because it claims an estimated 300,000 workers in and around Glasgow are under-served by public transport links to the city centre. Implementing bus franchising – under secondary legislation set to come into force in December – and increasing the frequency and footprint of bus services would connect hundreds of thousands more city-region residents to the city centre within 30 minutes, according to the research organisation.

Centre for Cities says bus franchising would open up long-term opportunities to integrate urban transport services run by ScotRail and Glasgow Subway into a single transport system with its own ticketing system and cross-subsidies for services in poorly-connected areas. It claims doing this would ultimately create a system that is much easier to use, with bus, Subway and train better coordinated and clearer and consistent fares and network-wide tickets easier to introduce.

20 year transition

Centre for Cities set out how a 20-year transition to an integrated and publicly-controlled urban transport network may happen in three phases:

  • Franchising of the bus network and capital investment in transport infrastructure, with funding from the Scottish Government, over the next five years.
  • Developing sustainable funding streams using revenue-raising powers such as congestion charging, workplace parking levies or new council tax precepts to reduce the public transport system’s reliance on national government subsidy, between five to ten years from now.
  • Bringing all the region’s rail systems – including the proposed Clyde Metro – under SPT’s control between 10-20 years from now, allowing for full integration across the network and enabling SPT to take advantage of additional revenues from commercial properties in train stations and enable further cross-subsidy across the entire urban transport network.

The report follows Greenock-based McGill’s Buses recent criticism of the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s offer to advise on bus franchising in Scotland, following the launch of Manchester’s franchised Bee Network.

“To get this to happen will require large upfront investment from local and national government. But this is a price worth paying” – Andrew Carter, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities

Andrew Carter, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said: “Cities in the UK underperform economically. In Glasgow, this economic underperformance is equivalent to 4.6% of Scotland’s GDP – the size of the nation’s entire Oil & Gas sector. The relatively small size of its public transport network compared to similar cities in Europe is one of the key factors behind this lag. For people living in and around Glasgow, this means longer commute times and many residents struggling to access the city centre and all of the jobs and opportunities on offer there.

“The Transport Act provides an important opportunity to improve public transport in and around Glasgow. Franchising buses under this route would better integrate different parts of Glasgow’s public transport system.

“To get this to happen will require large upfront investment from local and national government. But this is a price worth paying – Glasgow’s ongoing underperformance means the Scottish economy is billions of pounds smaller each year than it should otherwise be, and it limits the prosperity available to the millions of people who live in and around Scotland’s largest city.”

“Bus deregulation, introduced across Britain (except London) in 1986, has been a disaster for our region’s public transport” – Ellie Harrison, Chair of Get Glasgow Moving

Ellie Harrison, Chair of Get Glasgow Moving, said: “Bus deregulation, introduced across Britain (except London) in 1986, has been a disaster for our region’s public transport – leaving us with a system that’s fragmented, expensive and unreliable. It has locked many people out of jobs and opportunities, unable to visit friends or family, or forced to buy cars.

“Miles better gives us a clear route map for turning this around. It recommends that our region’s transport authority – SPT – follows Greater Manchester’s example and brings our bus network back into public control using new franchising powers. This would enable SPT to deliver a fully-integrated service that’s reliable, affordable and accessible to all. The positive impacts this would have are vast: cutting congestion and emissions, improving air quality, and reducing social isolation, but most importantly, ensuring that our region’s poorest communities are properly-connected to all the opportunity that Scotland’s biggest city has to offer.”

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