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Trial of flat fares for bus travel proposed in public transport review



Flat fares and free rail travel for people accompanying blind passengers are being considered in Scotland.

The suggestions, which form part of a review into Scotland’s public transport prices, which was promised as part of the 2021 agreement which saw the Scottish Greens enter Government with the SNP, have now been revealed.

The Scottish Government’s Fair Fares review suggests a pilot scheme for people accompanying eligible blind passengers to receive free rail travel, as well as developing a number of other proposals.

However opponents said the Fair Fares review is merely kicking decisions “down the road” as they claimed it does not commit to any new schemes.

A number of options to expand the concessionary travel scheme, which grants free bus travel to under-22s and over-60s, were ruled out on the grounds of cost and complexity.

As part of the 2021 Bute House Agreement, the SNP and Scottish Greens pledged to “increase investment in active travel and public transport, including a Fair Fares review to provide a realistic and affordable alternative to car use”.

The document said the “area-based” flat fares pilot would be aimed at attracting people on to buses rather than opting to take the car. A specific area was not mentioned in the text.

Transport Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “The recommendations and actions set out today will help us to ensure we have an available, affordable and accessible public transport system which enables people to make positive and proactive travel choices which result in using their cars less.”

She said current bus pass eligibility will be maintained, adding: “We know that families can save £3,000 for each child who makes full use of free bus travel, and the opportunities this is opening up to young people are truly remarkable.

“A sustainable and viable public transport system is also vital in achieving our ambitions on net zero, as well as our target to reduce car kilometres by 20% by 2030.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “This is an important step on our journey to a fairer, greener future for transport.

“Free bus travel for under-22s, older and disabled people will continue to make our bus services the most accessible in the UK.

“Building on that huge success, a trial fares cap on buses will give the Government the evidence to consider bigger changes for all passengers.

“From a commitment to deliver integrated ticketing to free ferries for young people, these recommendations will help boost and expand public transport across our country, ensuring it is a more affordable, accessible and reliable choice that doesn’t cost the earth.”

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Graham Simpson said: “This is a real disappointment.

“The SNP had the opportunity to announce some immediate actions that could make a real difference, but instead and as usual, everything is kicked down the road.

“They could have announced a nationwide bus fare cap, but they have instead promised a pilot of flat fares – somewhere, sometime.

“They could have promised companions of blind people free travel on rail, but instead we get a feasibility study into a pilot.

“They could have fast-tracked a nationwide smart ticketing scheme. That is nowhere near happening.”

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