FIGHT AGAINST BUS CUTS WILL TAKE TIME
This week’s withdrawal of services by McGill’s Buses serving our communities has been quite rightly highlighted by the PDE over recent days.
The reasons why each route has been withdrawn are different, but across each of these cuts is the common thread of loss of journey options and connectivity.
If we’re serious as a society about reducing car use, boosting public transport and meeting the net zero future, all of us should be united in challenging anything hindering that potential.
That’s why it was so disappointing – but not in the least surprising – to see Neil Bibby use his column in this space last week to spread cynical disinformation about the action I and others have been taking on this issue.
Some of us prefer to get on with our jobs rather than frantically chase the headlines, or set up “petitions” which will have zero effect on the situation, but add plenty of names to Neil Bibby’s contact list.
Following representations from myself and others to SPT asking for intervention to save these services, they announced the X22 would continue – not enough, but a start at least.
I’ve also been meeting with the Community Transport Association to explore what other options might be available to local communities in ensuring residents have access to public transport.
And my colleagues on Renfrewshire Council have played a part in looking to the longer term and commissioning work into the fundamental challenges that have afflicted bus services across Renfrewshire, and what could be done in future to tackle those challenges and make our public transport network work for us all.
These are not easy questions and none of them have easy answers – and what answers there are involve time and money, things generally in short supply.
But stunts like Mr Bibby’s do nothing to help get those answers, while doing everything to undermine the real efforts that have been made and continue to be made to get McGill’s back to the drawing board, even if that is now about reinstating rather than continuing routes.
Too often politics is characterised by attempts for the cheap headline, promising delivery when those making the promises know fine well that things just aren’t that simple.
The reason behind McGill’s withdrawal of services looping round Gallowhill and Whitehaugh is the number of badly parked cars holding up buses and making them late. That isn’t something that can be fixed overnight and needs the Council and McGill’s to work together constructively on a long-term solution.
Similarly a huge amount of work is needed from all levels of government to build a better transport system and one which is fit for the 21st century.
Decades of under-investment, decline, deregulation, and privatisation have created a disjointed, fragmented and over-expensive network, and one which is struggling to develop the kind of shift from private transport we all need to see.
At a time when budgets have been slashed by Westminster to unprecedented low levels, making every penny of transport spending count is more important than ever, as are the ideas and plans for improving services.
The new electric buses used by McGill’s locally were part-funded by the Scottish Government, building bigger and better capacity in local buses totalling £63 million last year alone.
Concessionary travel for over 60s and under 22s similarly is funded by Holyrood, bringing £310 million last year to bus operators.
And nearly £100 million was paid out to operators in direct subsidy for commercial services.
That’s nearly £500 million in support in a single year to bus companies to provide the services we rely on.
Real money is going into our bus network – the challenge is how best to spend that money to ensure we get the integrated transport system we deserve – and that instead of more cuts in coming years, we see expansion, expansion, expansion.