Rural travel improvements urged in Scotland

Scotland’s transport system is too often “tightening the grip of poverty” on low income families according to a new report which urges action to make travel more affordable and improve the availability of services in deprived and rural areas.

The report conducted by campaign group the Poverty Alliance for Transport Scotland focuses on the relationship between child poverty and transport.

It highlights that public transport is essential for people living on low incomes to access employment and vital services – such as education – but found that fares were often “prohibitive and causing social isolation”.

Families taking part in the study suggested making bus travel free for families on low incomes at less busy times of the day. They also highlighted a need for greater integrated ticketing across different public transport services alongside improvements to infrastructure and services in rural areas.

“These findings support what communities have been telling us for many years; that too many families in Scotland are locked into hardship because of our transport system,” said Poverty Alliance director Peter Kelly.

“Action is needed now to address both the affordability and availability of public transport,” he added. “We urge all of Scotland’s politicians to hear the voices in this report and to act, by re-designing our transport system so that it works for everyone.”

Scottish Transport Minister Graeme Dey welcomed the report and said: “The findings from this research highlight the urgent need for us to develop actions to address the interlinked challenges of public transport availability and affordability on a specific and targeted basis.” He added that the Scottish Government is already working to extend free bus travel to people under the age of 22.

Also this week, a study which asked children for their views on cycling has reported that many young people are concerned about safety and the behaviour of drivers, which puts them off travelling on two wheels.

The report commissioned by Cycling Scotland says children want drivers to receive lessons on driving safely near people on bikes. Many also cited a lack of ‘nice and safe’ places to cycle such as well kept cycle paths and trails, and there was a view that cycle training could be introduced and taught to children at an earlier age.

Meanwhile, Transport Scotland has launched a consultation on new powers which would allow local authorities to take forward workplace parking licensing schemes.

The schemes would see employers pay an annual levy to the council for every parking space they provide for employees, with the revenue raised going towards local transport improvements such as those designed to encourage walking, cycling and public transport.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s air pollution campaigner Gavin Thomson commented: “Councils badly need a range of measures to change our car dominated transport system, and workplace parking levies have a track record of bringing much needed investment to transport infrastructure and creating healthier places to live and work.”

Also in Scotland, Edinburgh’s transport and environment committee is tomorrow set to approve proposals for a city centre low emission zone – applying to all motor vehicles except motorcycles – ahead of a public consultation.

It is planned to implement the zone next spring, with enforcement set to begin in 2024 when vehicles must meet a minimum emissions standard to enter the city centre freely, or face penalty charges.