CAMPAIGNERS calling for free public transport in Glasgow will hear advice from a representative of a French city which rolled out a similar scheme two years ago.

Xavier Dairaine, the director of engineering in urban communities in Dunkirk, is speaking at an online conference organised by the Free Our City campaign.

He will explain why free bus travel was introduced in his city, and why he believes Glasgow should do the same.

Free Our City is a new coalition of community campaigns, such as Get Glasgow Moving, as well as trade unions and the youth climate movement.

READ MORE: Racist thug left good samaritan with £6000 tooth repair after Partick attack

Its online conference on Saturday is titled ‘Imagine if buses were free…” and includes a speaker from Tallinn, Estonia, which introduced free public transport for residents in 2013.

Jennifer McCarey, an organiser with Free Our City, said: “These insights will be hugely valuable as we launch this campaign to imagine our city in a way that is open to everyone.

“We need to learn from the towns and cities around the world that have introduced free public transport.”

Jackson Cullinane, from trade union Unite, which represents Glasgow’s bus drivers, is also set to give a speech.

The Free Our City campaign say the Dunkirk scheme has been a “huge success”, increasing bus passenger numbers, reducing car travel and “opening the city up for historically marginalised communities”.

Ellie Harrison, who is part of the campaign, said: “Transport is our biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and free public transport is the key to fighting climate change in Glasgow and the surrounding region.

“Our shoddy and expensive bus service doesn’t work for anyone. We need radical change.

“Half the households in Glasgow don’t have access to a car. Our extortionate bus fares, combined with low level of car ownership, ensure that the whole city region is effectively closed to many of its residents. Free public transport will reduce our emissions, improve air quality and free our city.” 

Glasgow City Council had agreed to explore taking bus services into the city into public ownership last year, following First Group’s decision to puts its UK operations up for sale.

However, council leader Susan Aitken confirmed a sale was “off the table” at a meeting in January after First Group decided against the move.

A council spokesman said: “A free public transport area isn’t likely to be viable under the current regulatory frameworks that apply to transport in the UK. 

“At the very least, it would require public ownership – the alternative being taxpayers write a blank cheque for private operators, with little say in the service.”

Mr Cullinane said: “For too long, bus workers and local communities have suffered from the effects of the privatisation of bus service in the 1980s – with rocketing fares, the removal of routes, reductions in service provision, limitations on wages and conditions, increased working hours and threats to job security.

Glasgow Times: Council leader Susan AitkenCouncil leader Susan Aitken

“We need a new approach. One that is based on service provision rather than profit accumulation, which supports the manufacture of Green Buses and the jobs of workers such as those at Alexander Dennis and one that properly implements the new powers of municipal bus ownership in Scotland by providing councils with the start-up support to make it a reality.”