Bus services in Glasgow should be back in public hands, according to campaigners after a report said the private operator system across the UK is “falling apart”.

Fragmented services, poor reliability, sky-rocketing fares and handsome private sector profits are all features of bus services since deregulation, according to the new report.

Public Transport, Private Profit, written by the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice looked at bus services in Scotland, Wales and England, outside London.

READ MORE:Glasgow buses given share of £35.4m to maintain services

The report into bus services has said that the privatisation of services 35 years ago has led to a “dysfunctional system that is slowly falling apart.”

The lead author is Philip Alston, a former United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty and Human Rights.

Glasgow Times:

The researchers said they found a “broken system of fragmented services, disappearing routes, reduced frequency, poor reliability, falling ridership, limited coverage, inefficient competition, and poor information”.

Alston and his co-authors called on the governments of England, Scotland, and Wales to “stop relying on private firms and market forces to determine access to such a vital service and instead argued that  bus services should be under public sector control”.

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The report stated: “The UK government imposed an extreme form of privatization and deregulation on the bus sector in England outside London, Scotland, and Wales in 1985.

“Private companies now run the routes almost entirely on the basis of what is profitable. Over the past 35 years, this approach has provided a master class in how not to run an essential public service, and left residents with an expensive, unreliable, fragmented, and dysfunctional bus system that is slowly falling apart.”

Glasgow Times:

Campaigners for improved public transport in Glasgow said Scotland has the power to run public bus services but nothing has been done.

Ellie Harrison of Get Glasgow Moving, said: “Scotland has had power over its bus network since devolution in 1999, yet it has done absolutely nothing to undo the damage caused by deregulation, and is now pursuing the status quo even more aggressively than Westminster.

Glasgow Times:

“Meanwhile the Scottish Government’s ill-conceived Bus Partnership Fund is forcing all local authorities into so-called ‘Bus Service Improvement Partnerships’ (BSIPs), which will lock us into this broken privatised system for years to come.

“Although new powers for public control and ownership of buses were introduced in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 after our long-fought campaign at the Parliament, two years on, these are yet to be enacted or have any support or funding attached.

“We hope this report – with its accompanied scrutiny on the global stage – will be the wake-up call they need to change track.”

First Bus said profit is not it's sole consideration and it runs some routes in Glasgow at a loss while the bus industry in Scotland said the report does not give a fair picture of bus services in Scotland.

Graeme Macfarlan, Commercial Director for First Glasgow, said: “We are committed to providing a service that responds to our customers’ needs.

"Serving our communities is at the heart of our decision-making – not profit. Indeed, we continue to operate routes across Glasgow at a loss in order to maintain the integrity of the entire bus network.

“Our punctuality and performance are under constant review as we strive to improve service levels and make bus travel a more attractive option. Congestion and delays can be barrier to this, but these factors are unfortunately outside of bus operators’ control. We therefore work closely with local authorities to identify affected routes and improve journeys for passengers.”

Paul White, Director at the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) Scotland, said: “While CPT shares the CHR’s desire for a strong public transport system, we do not believe the CHR report provides a full or fair picture of bus operation in Scotland.  There are myriad factors that impact upon bus services and fares beyond who owns or operates the vehicles. Research indicates 75% of the factors that influence bus patronage are outwith an operator’s control. Among these are ever worsening congestion, a lack of bus priority measures and changing travel needs (online shopping/homeworking).

“Bus operators and the Scottish Government are working together to improve services for all Scots, as made clear within the recent National Transport Strategy. Bus operators will deliver free bus travel for under 22s, we are committed to stronger, formal local partnerships through the Bus Partnership Fund, and operators are investing at unprecedented levels to decarbonise bus fleets.

“Our focus remains on playing our part in providing a comprehensive, attractive and affordable bus network that will compliment active travel and convince people to leave their cars at home.”

A Transport Scotland said councils have power to influence and improve bus services in their area.

A spokesman said: “We recognise that a vibrant bus industry is vital to our communities and to our wider green recovery. That’s why we’re providing up to £96.8 million in 21-22 to maintain services during the pandemic, further to the maximum of £191.3 million offered to bus operators last year.

“We are also providing long term investment of over £500 million for bus priority infrastructure to tackle the negative impacts of congestion on bus services. This aims to make bus trips faster and more attractive to passengers. Many people in Scotland already benefit from free bus travel and we are working with delivery partners to extend free bus travel to under-22s.

“Ministers have previously confirmed that the vision proposed through the National Transport Strategy for a fairer and greener transport system remains as relevant in guiding our actions through and out of this crisis, as it does for the protection of our climate and for our future sustainable economic growth.

“The Transport Act offers an ambitious new model for bus services. It provides local authorities with options to influence and improve services in their area, ensuring that there are sustainable bus networks across Scotland.”