*This article was first published in the Edinburgh Evening News newspaper on the 12th of March 2019*
When it comes to buses, you can’t beat Edinburgh.
The publically owned Lothian Bus services that keep the city moving all year round are second to none. Without the excellent service they provide, getting across the city would be chaos.
Nationally, other areas are not so fortunate and bus services under the SNP have seen networks being slowly dismantled and passenger numbers falling, by 10% in last 5 years.
That is why I’ve been clear that when the Transport Bill comes before the Scottish Parliament I’ll be backing amendments to facilitate municipal ownership and radical re-regulation of our buses, ending the ban on local councils setting up local bus companies. Meaning more parts of Scotland can benefit from a similar service to that provided in the capital.
Edinburgh’s Lothian buses recently extended services into East Lothian, a welcome move and one which shows what a difference it could make if we give more councils the power to do the same and end the dismantling of lifeline bus routes, and put a stop to rip-off fares.
In addition to this at Scottish Labour conference last weekend, we announced a commitment to introduce free bus travel for the under 25s.
Currently anyone with a Young Scot Card entitles those aged 16-18 to a discount of a third off adult single fares on any registered bus service in Scotland, which in Edinburgh means each journey is £1.10.
Studies show that every £1 spent on concessionary bus travel generates at least £2.87 in benefits to bus pass users and to the wider economy.
Extending concessionary bus travel, which already applies to older and disabled people, is both popular and successful and it makes sense, for both our young people and our economy.