Bad budget for buses

The Scottish Government has ‘paused’ the Bus Partnership Fund. The Fund is ‘a long-term investment of over £500m to deliver targeted bus priority measures…to reduce the negative impacts of congestion on bus services and address the decline in bus patronage’

When it was launched in 2019, it was the biggest investment in buses for years. Edinburgh and surrounding Councils planned to use it to finance major bus priority programmes, including on nine of Edinburgh’s busiest road corridors.

It was paused once before, at the height of the Covid pandemic. Now the Scottish Government intends to make no funds available in 2024-25; citing ‘difficult choices’ it faces due to the settlement received from the UK Treasury. The scale of this challenge has been widely covered; but the Scottish Government still has choices within the overall budget it receives. Indeed spending in some other parts of the transport budget will INCREASE in 2024-25.

With two ‘pauses’ in less than four years, it seems to EBUG that buses are the default option to drop whenever things get difficult.

How does fit with the Scottish Governments’ climate objectives? or to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030?

To date, around £28 million of the Fund, out of £500m, has been spent; equivalent to less than £6m per year. Most if not all of this has been on developing the projects. Little if anything has been built on the ground.
There are nearly 20 priority projects ready to start across Scotland; Councils and operators have spent money and time on the process, with work about to accelerate. Apart from anything else, this kind of stop-start process is bad management, incurring additional delays and costs.

To quote Transform Scotland: ‘The Scottish Government’s decision to cancel its £500 million commitment to bus priority undermines efforts to improve bus service reliability and speed, which are the top barriers to bus use…This lack of progress will likely have further exacerbated fare increases and service cuts.’

Paul White of the Confederation of Passenger Transport: ‘FirstAberdeen is reporting a 20% increase in weekend patronage due to (lower) fares offer made possible by the new bus priority measures’  in this letter from the CPT to the Transport Minister.