Move to keep bus services on road

A BID to ensure bus companies have to provide services on non profitable routes will be taken to the Scottish Parliament in the new year.

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Labour's finance spokesman, Iain Gray, has published a bus bill, which he said has received a favourable reception during a consultation.

Mr Gray's Bill would see councils be able to 'bundle' together routes some profitable, some not and then bus firms would bid to run the services.

He said it would ensure services were run on routes that are socially necessary even if they don't make a profit for the bus firm.

The former Labour leader said the changes would put the passengers' needs at the heart of our services and not the commercial interests of the bus firms.

He said: "Bus services are vitally important in linking communities and account for five times more journeys across Scotland than rail. Yet they get less attention and access to public funds than rail and are more likely to be cut by the operator if they're not commercially viable.

"This market-driven approach lets too many Scots down and needs to change. It's too easy for operators to walk away even from services they are paid to deliver, and when they do, it's communities that suffer.

"This Bill would put the bus user ahead of the service provider and would ensure communities are less exposed to bus service cuts that leave them powerless. It would also make operators more accountable for the services they provide and impose penalties on them when they break service agreements."

The Bill is intended to improve services and increase passenger journeys and reverse a decline in the bus industry.

It will give transport authorities with a greater say in how services are run with input on fares and frequency.

It will give the Traffic Commissioner a greater role with powers to give tougher penalties on firms who breach the franchise terms.

Mr Gray added: "While bus companies have resisted the measures proposed in the Bill they do feel that their industry does not get enough public subsidy, especially compared to rail. I agree with them, but they have to understand that taxpayers will only pour more money into bus services if we get more say in how those services are run."

The bill will be presented to the Scottish Parliament where it needs to be supported by 18 MSPs from half the Holyrood political groups to be allowed to progress.

Local government

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