Opportunity/Challenge 7: Improve the availability and affordability of public transport services, to ensure those more reliant on public transport can better access it
What does the evidence tell us?
- Women, older people, younger people, and those on lower incomes are more likely to use public transport and with greater frequency.
- Access to private vehicles is patterned by household income; data from 2019 shows that 40% of households with an annual income up to £10,000 had access to one or more cars, compared to 97% of households with an annual income of more than £50,000.
- Disabled adults are more likely to use the bus than non-disabled adults (11% of journeys vs 7%), less likely to drive (42% vs 54%), and more likely to be a car-passenger (18% vs 12%). Disabled people are less likely to have a driving licence (51% vs 75%) and access to a car (52% vs 77%). Disabled people also face barriers to owning or accessing a bicycle, and greater proportions of women than men (16% women compared to 8% men) are concerned about their personal safety when cycling.
- The 9-5 pattern for public transport and the radial approach (from urban centre to suburb) is not sufficiently designed based on women's needs, as they are more likely to need a range of orbital transport routes which cross towns and cities and timetables which fit with unpaid care work, part-time employment, and shift work.
- The issue of accessibility is greater in rural and island communities given longer commuting distances, higher fuel prices, and general cost of public transportation methods from the islands in particular. Across the wider population, multiple and competing costs experienced by those on low incomes impact on accessibility.
- Disabled people were slightly less positive about their recent experiences of using buses and trains than people who are not disabled. Disabled people experience greater challenges in terms of connecting between different forms of public transport during journeys.
What are we doing to address this?
The National Transport Strategy (NTS2) has as its vision that "we will have a sustainable, inclusive, safe and accessible transport system, helping to deliver a healthier, fairer and more prosperous Scotland, for communities, businesses and visitors". Tackling inequality is a key priority for NTS2.
Recognising cost as a significant factor in using transport for a number of different groups, the Resource Spending Review sets out a number of steps to tackle the cost of living crisis which are articulated elsewhere in this document, and which will help to mitigate the cost of using transport.
We are also investing to reduce costs for public transport. We have brought ScotRail into public ownership and the range of reduced fares available for those on lower incomes will continue. We are continuing to support bus users by providing free bus travel for people over 60 and with disabilities and for young people under the age of 22; more than two million people are now eligible for this. Additionally, we are continuing to subsidise bus services through grant funding that contributes towards the costs of operating them, helping keep fares down and networks more extensive than would otherwise be the case, and the new Community Bus Fund will support local transport authorities to improve services for their communities. We are also undertaking our Fair Fares Review to ensure a sustainable and integrated approach to public transport fares as we recover from the pandemic. It will look at the range of discounts and concessionary schemes which are available on all modes including bus, rail and ferry. It will also take into account the cost and availability of services and will consider options taking cognisance of the relative changes to the overall cost of travel.
Low income households in island communities will benefit from the continuation of reduced ferry travel costs through national and local concessionary schemes. We have reduced ferry fares for islanders on Northern Isles services to receive a 30% discount and, in January 2020, we implemented a three year freeze on fares and 20% reduction on cabin fares for specific routes. We continue to support Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) fares on all Clyde and Hebrides ferry services which brings significantly lower fares for passengers, cars, small commercial vehicles, and coaches. RET helps to reduce the cost disadvantage faced by island communities by setting fares on the basis of travelling an equivalent distance by road. We continue to fund the Air Discount Scheme and the Public Service Obligation air services to Barra, Campbeltown, and Tiree to maintain connectivity and address the impacts of rurality for our remote communities.
We will invest over £150 million across the spending review period on active travel. This funding will support capital expenditure across the period and enable the active travel funding to reach a combined annual budget of £320 million by 2024-25. This will continue to deliver on commitments to roll out the free bikes for school age children who cannot afford them based on the outcome of the pilots. The Scotland Cycle Repair Scheme helps get old bikes out of storage and back onto our roads, as well as keeping well-used bikes pedalling smoothly and safely. The subsidy towards bike maintenance will support parents and carers with any necessary maintenance and repair of any bike including an adaptive bike or manual wheelchair. Funding is also provided for the purchase of e-bikes through the Energy Savings Trust (EST), which is available for adults to purchase non-standard cycles. A direct resource fund is provided to local authorities to support the delivery of active travel infrastructure capital projects on local roads through the Cycling and Walking Safer Routes programme. The Sustrans 'Places for Everyone' programme is supported by a behavioural change programme to create safe, attractive, healthier places by increasing the number of trips made by walking, cycling, and wheeling for everyday journeys.
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