The Scottish Government is issuing a series of papers comparing economic and social indicators in the UK with performance in ten small European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
Public transport performance is also a topic that needs attention. Scotland’s trains and buses are facing severe problems of declining use and revenue, rising costs and cutbacks in the wake of the pandemic. But public transport has a vital future role in reducing CO2 emissions from transport, overcoming energy shortages, avoiding road congestion and offering connectivity for all communities at affordable fare levels.
The Scottish Association for Public Transport (SAPT) has researched transport trends in these small European countries. In the best of these countries bus and rail use has been increasing steadily. Public transport is organised as an integrated system, with bus, rail and tram routes co-ordinated to offer seamless journeys, often needing just one payment for multi-modal travel within a particular area, making travel much easier and less expensive than in Scotland.
In Scotland, local transport authorities are faced with funding problems and are appraising the future of bus networks. We believe that this should not be confined to buses. The opportunity must be taken to widen this appraisal to plan bus and rail as an integrated network. Our firm conviction is that this could provide a much better level of public transport across all regions of Scotland, done most cost- effectively by co-ordinating services, making the best use of zero-carbon rail, bus, tram and subway.
We recommend that the Scottish Government commits to this integrated approach and implements the legislative changes, organisational structures and transport governance changes that are likely to be needed to deliver this vision of a world-class zero-carbon public transport system.