PRIVATE bus companies in Glasgow are “holding the city to ransom” by accepting public subsidies while hiking up fares and cutting vital services, campaigners claim.

Friends of the Earth have spoken out as a consultation into Scotland’s local bus services comes to a close.

The group are calling for Glasgow City Council to be given more control of the city’s buses, which they believe are currently in crisis.

Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport, invited the public to share their views on local bus services in September but stated that he believes the problem is ‘not who owns the buses’.

He added that transport authorities, which he claims are overly bureaucratic, will not be forced to adopt any of the proposals put forward.

Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “The bus sector is in a shocking state and needs a shake up, because buses play such a vital role in tackling air pollution, climate change, and transport poverty.

“People are being forced into car ownership across Scotland because the buses simply do not serve their area or are unreliable.

“With the right type of regulation and support, our bus networks can be expanded and fleets modernised, making the bus the smart choice for everyone.”

Ellie Harrison, campaigner for Get Glasgow Moving added: “Glasgow is being held to ransom by private bus companies. 45 per cent of their income comes from public subsidies, yet they continue to cut vital services and hike up fares.

“While profits go to shareholders, the average age of a bus in Glasgow is over 10 years, belching out poisonous diesel fumes onto the most polluted streets in Scotland.

“We want a newly enhanced ‘Transport for Glasgow’ to be granted the powers necessary to run its own bus company, a new ‘Strathclyde Buses’.

“This bus company should be part-owned by Glasgow City Council and the surrounding Councils which presently make up Strathclyde Partnership for Transport and, most importantly, constituted so that all its profits are reinvested in expanding the region’s public transport network, improving reliability and reducing fares.”

A spokesman for First Bus said the company does not recognise the claims being made by Friends of the Earth.

Adding: “A recent report by KPMG found that bus fares in Scotland have increased in real terms but by only 4.7 per cent over the last five years – not 50 per cent.

“The same report found total bus service mileage for commercial operators has dropped by 1per cent in the past five years while local authority-supported mileage has dropped by 10 per cent.

“First Bus in Scotland is committed to working in partnership with local authorities and regional transport partnerships to improve bus services.

“We want to see that partnership approach strengthened in the forthcoming transport bill, with local authorities using the statutory powers they already have in the delivery of improvements for our customers.

“We hope the transport bill will address the real issues affecting bus travel in Scotland and most notably congestion, which is slowing down journeys and driving up costs for customers.

“The decline in high street shopping and the low cost of car ownership and car parking charges have also had an impact.”

Councillor Anna Richardson, City Convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, added: “The council would support more control over local bus services through increasing the powers of any partnership agreement with bus operators and work which sought to deliver better connected bus services throughout Glasgow.

“This would allow the local transport authority to provide public bus services where it is clear that the public are not receiving and adequate service.”