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Free bus travel for under 22s

Published: 05 Nov 2021 12:30

61% of young people say public transport central to combatting climate emergency.

All under 22s resident in Scotland will have access to free bus travel from 31 January 2022, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed, implementing a commitment agreed with the Scottish Green Party.

New research commissioned by Transport Scotland shows that almost two-thirds (61%) of young Scots agree that access to public transport will play a central role in the fight against climate change. 

School pupils, students and social media influencers joined the First Minister and Mr Harvie at Glasgow Caledonian University to mark COP26’s Youth and Empowerment Day on board a new, Scottish-built electric bus as she confirmed the scheme.

The change means around 930,000 young people across Scotland will benefit from free bus travel from 31 January 2022. 

Transport Scotland research showed 70% of young people indicate they would use public transport more frequently if it was free. 

The Scottish Government has committed to removing the majority of fossil fuelled buses from public transport by 2023.

A Bus Decarbonisation Taskforce has been convened which brings bus operators, the supply chain, energy companies and financiers together to co-design a pathway to a fully zero-emission bus fleet. 

Transport Scotland has made £50 million available to the Scottish Zero Emission Bus Challenge Fund, to further support the Scottish bus fleet to transition to zero emission.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: 

“We are committed to giving our young people the very best chances to succeed in life. The extension of free bus travel to all under 22s will improve access to education, leisure, and work, while supporting the adoption of sustainable travel behaviours early in their lives.

“COP26 must be a turning point for the world, and action must be taken if we are to ‘keep 1.5 alive’, and Governments across the world must act to support this. Adopting more sustainable travel behaviour is vital if we are to reach our world-leading goal of reducing the number of kilometres travelled by car by 20% by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2045.”

Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights, Patrick Harvie MSP said:

“This transformational policy shows that our focus on tackling the climate emergency goes hand in hand with improving lives and tackling inequality. Free bus travel will open up opportunities for young people and ease pressure on family budgets while helping deliver the step-change we need to deliver on our climate commitments. 

“Children and young people travelling for free on modern, zero-carbon electric buses is another step towards the fairer, greener Scotland we are committed to building.” 

Paul Davies, President & Managing Director of Alexander Dennis said: 

“Scotland’s under 22s will have a unique opportunity to make sustainable travel choices with free bus travel across the country. COP26 is showing that future generations must be at the heart of climate policy and the Young Persons' Free Bus Travel Scheme is an excellent example of forward-looking policy in action. “With the Scottish Government funding zero emission buses that are built right here in Scotland, young people can be sure their journeys will not only be smooth, clean and green, but will benefit communities through the skilled jobs, apprenticeship and graduate opportunities underpinned by this investment.”

Stewart (17), Young Scot volunteer on the COP26 Youth Climate Programme said: 

“Free bus travel for young people in Scotland is a fantastic way to help tackle the climate emergency – an issue that’s so important to young people as we are the generation who will be most impacted. Not only will it help to reduce our carbon emissions, but it will also support young people like me to study, socialise, get to work and make the most of their lives. It’s a win win!”

Background

Free travel for residents of Scotland aged 5-21 will be accessed by the National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC from 31 January 2022. Information on the application process for existing cardholders and new users will be available on the Transport Scotland website in due course. Children aged 0-4 already travel for free on commercial bus services.

The scheme will be delivered by the Scottish Government in partnership with the Improvement Service, National Entitlement Card Programme Office, Young Scot, local authorities and bus operators to help Scotland reach its net zero targets by 2045.

£50.7 million was awarded in 2020 to support 272 new zero emission buses and associated infrastructure through the Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme, with 207 of those currently being manufactured in Scotland, supporting green jobs. 

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Censuswide. Total sample size was 501 Scottish young people aged 5-21. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1 - 5 October 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 18+).

When surveyed on their reliance on public transport, half (50%) said they use bus services to visit friends, with two in five (38%) travelling on public transport to see family members. A third (31%) use public transport to access school, college, or university. One in four (23%) journey to work and one in five (21%) take public transport to sport or exercise facilities.