Scotland's bus services must be protected against Covid-19 and historical timetable issues, a local MSP has urged.
In Parliament, Scottish Conservatives MSP and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Graham Simpson brought forward a motion expressing concern that hundreds of bus services in Scotland have been cut since March 2020.
According to the Traffic Commissioner, between March 1 and November 30 a total of 241 bus services were cancelled in Scotland.
Many parts of the country, including the Central Scotland region, have been left without an adequate service.
Additionally, the Scottish Government has yet to commence Part 3 of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 to allow local authorities to bring forward proposals for the provision of bus services in their area.
Graham Simpson, MSP for Central Scotland said: “As the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, I put forward this motion in the hopes of starting a serious conversation about what we want our public transport system to be like and how it can emerge once we are through the pandemic.
"In my view some bus companies have taken the opportunity during Covid-19 to get rid of services that they have been looking to be short of for some time.
"I’ve lived in East Kilbride for 25 years and in all that time our bus service has been woeful – a bus once every half an hour that would get you one way into the town centre but very much round the houses and the other way into Glasgow.
"The buses were old and the service hit and miss. It’s little wonder that most people didn’t bother with it and that car use is high because there really is no alternative.
"But some people don’t have a car and needed a bus so when First tried a few years ago to axe the service I, as a local councillor at the time, ran a big campaign and we managed to stop the cut.
"And that’s how it stayed until Covid struck. The already low numbers on a poor service got even lower and First stopped running the 31 to East Kilbride.
"They were not prepared to act on pleas to consider potentially more-viable routes. Stewartfield was cast aside.
"All we could do was appeal to SPT to help and despite being seriously cash-strapped themselves they funded a replacement service with a different operator but it’s only once an hour.
"My view is that long-term it can’t work and that we need to do much better though I am told that passenger numbers so far are promising.
"My experience is not unique but it highlights something that’s wrong with the current system.
"In many parts of the country we have a hotch-potch of operators.
"In my own region there are over 50.
"Buses can lead the green recovery through companies like Alexander Dennis in my own region.
"I hope they benefit from the green bus fund announced by the chancellor and which I lobbied for behind the scenes.
"I'm asking for all MSPs to get behind the message that buses are good and necessary and to start a national conversation on how best to provide a robust and green transportation system.
Graham Simpson, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity motion:
That the Parliament is concerned that hundreds of bus services in Scotland have been cut since March 2020; notes the support given to bus companies by the Scottish Government during the COVID-19 pandemic, but considers that, despite this, many parts of the country, including the Central Scotland region, have been left without an adequate service, and acknowledges that the Scottish Government has yet to commence Part 3 of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 to allow local authorities to bring forward proposals for the provision of bus services in their area.