Dumfries and Galloway should “grasp the opportunity” created by a historic change in the law which lifts the ban on councils running local bus services, according to South Scotland Labour MSP and Scottish Labour Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth.
When the Transport Bill came before the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee in June, Colin Smyth secured an amendment to the Bill by a narrow 6 votes to 5 to give which gave councils the power to run bus services.
Last week when the Transport Bill came before Parliament for the final time before becoming law, the Government decided not to try to reverse the amendment.
The historic law change secured by the South Scotland MSP now means local councils will have the power to run bus services directly or through setting up arms-length municipal bus companies with either model free to compete for any service or franchise.
Currently the only publicly owned municipal bus company in Scotland is Lothian Buses, whose existence pre-dates deregulation. Colin Smyth hopes we will see a new publicly owned Dumfries and Galloway buses set up to help tackle the decline in local bus services.
Colin Smyth said, “I am delighted that my proposal to change the law lifting the legal ban on councils running their own bus services was incorporated in the Transport Bill
Councils will now be able to run bus services directly or through an arms-length company to the benefit of the communities, which they serve. It is historic change and I hope councils will grasp the opportunity.
In recent years we have seen the bus network being dismantled route by route, fares have risen and passenger numbers plummeted, because big private bus firms have put profit before passengers.
These cuts have been felt most by our rural communities but have also affected everyone trying to travel at nights and weekends when often there are no buses running.
Public transport should be a public service accessible to all and now communities through the council have a chance to wrestle control of their bus network away from big business”.