£500m Bus Partnership Fund to tackle congestion and support green recovery

The Scottish Government is continuing its programme of investment with £500m in bus priority infrastructure. 

The Bus Partnership Fund will support local authorities, in partnership with bus operators, to tackle the negative impact of congestion on bus services so that bus journeys are quicker and more reliable – encouraging more people to travel by bus.

The Bus Partnership Fund will complement the new powers in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019. It will enable local authorities, in partnership with bus operators, to work together to develop and deliver ambitious schemes that incorporate bus priority measures to tackle the negative impacts of congestion.

In doing so, this will make bus use more attractive, increasing bus usage and patronage, which in turn leads to greater investment and better services.

Work had been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the Programme for Government published in September reaffirmed the commitment to this funding programme as a key part of Scotland’s green recovery.

Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson said:  “I’m very pleased to launch our Bus Partnership Fund as part of our efforts to secure Scotland’s green recovery from COVID-19.

“I acknowledge the extreme pressures on local authorities and bus operators as we continue to negotiate our way through the current pandemic. However, in addition to providing emergency funding for operators right now, we are also looking to the future.

“We are committed to achieving a just and green recovery and I believe that supporting bus travel is key to that.

“As set out in the National Transport Strategy, the benefits of bus, particularly to addressing the climate emergency and tackling inequality, are clear.

“The Bus Partnership Fund is a key part of delivering on the priorities outlined in the Strategy. I believe that a strong partnership approach is essential and I want to see ambitious proposals placing bus priority at the heart of our sustainable transport future – linking with active travel alongside further action and investment from local authorities and bus operators.

“When local authorities and their partners make ambitious bids to the Bus Partnership Fund, coupled with our wider support to the sector, this will contribute to our collective vision to deliver an efficient, inclusive, cost-effective and sustainable transport system for all.”

Paul White, Director for CPT in Scotland said: “CPT welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to invest in improved infrastructure for buses.

“Congestion is the biggest issue holding back buses in our communities.

“Reducing journey times will make buses more attractive for customers, reduce the number of cars on our roads, improve local air quality and free up resources to deliver improved bus networks and better value fares.

“Every £1 invested in bus priority can generate up to eight times that amount in wider economic, social and environmental benefits. So, investment in buses is an investment in Scotland’s future. 

“We are committed to working in partnership with local authorities to deliver an attractive, modern, green bus network for Scotland, and we look forward to helping maximise the impact of this fund.” Greig MacKay, Director for Bus Users Scotland said:

“Bus Users welcomes the new Bus Partnership Fund for Scotland and its focus on passengers. By reducing congestion and increasing accessibility to active travel options, we should see faster and more reliable bus services and greater passenger numbers across Scotland.”

Details of the Bus Partnership Fund are on the Transport Scotland website.

About the fund and bus policy

The £500m investment is comprised of the Bus Partnership Fund and funding for reallocation of road space for high occupancy vehicle, such as buses, on the motorway network through Glasgow. 

Transport Scotland is also progressing the second Strategic Transport Projects Review which will identify the next priority areas for investment.

The bus priority funding is not the only support which has been made available for the sector.

The Scottish Government has approved additional expenditure of up to £52.6 million to support bus operators through the COVID-19 Support Grant – Restart to maintain services during the coronavirus pandemic.

This new funding, to cover expected loss of revenue between 9 November and 17 January, extends the support of up to £109.7 million provided to increase bus services since June.

The Scottish Government has awarded £7.4 million through the first round of the Scottish Ultra-Low Emission Bus Scheme.

The initiative helps bus operators invest in ultra-low emission vehicles and infrastructure  – supporting a green recovery out of the COVID-19 crisis, furthering its ambitions for a net-zero economy and improving air quality through a greener fleet.41 ultra-low emission buses will be supported across five bids, with 35 of the buses built in Scotland – supporting jobs and the wider Scottish supply chain.

In addition, The Scottish Government has awarded over £9.75 million to 19 bus and coach operators to retrofit 594 mid-life vehicle exhausts in 2020/21.

This step will reduce harmful emissions and air pollution which damages health.

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on new proposals to offer free bus travel for young people resident in Scotland aged under 19.

Over a third of people already benefit from free bus travel in Scotland.

The proposed extension of free bus travel to approximately 770,000 young people will deliver on the budget agreement, as reaffirmed in the recent Programme for Government.

At the same time the proposals help realise the vision proposed through the National Transport Strategy – contributing to a transport system with reduced inequalities and one that advances equality of opportunity.

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