On the buses: Labour demands of the Scottish Government what Labour in England terms a Tory ‘half baked measure’

By stewartb

On a lazy Saturday morning listening to BBC Radio 4, I was – to say the least – surprised to hear on the 11am UK news bulletin, in amongst big stories from the USA, from Westminster etc. a reference to a big story from Scotland. This news item (seemingly) worthy of such UK-wide profile was a demand from the Labour Party in Scotland – that’s from the third party in terms of seats in the Scottish Parliament – that the Scottish Government replicates a Tory policy. The latter is the capping of single bus fares in England at £2.00 for the period 1 January to 31 March 2023.

This Labour demand was also amplified – of course much less surprisingly – on the Scotland page of the BBC News website today: ‘Scottish government urged to introduce cap on bus fares’ (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-64180199):

‘More than 130 bus operators in England have signed up to limit fares to £2 for the first three months of the year. Scottish Labour wants Scotland to follow suit to stop people seeking alternative transport. (Labour’s) Mr Bibby said: “In Edinburgh, council-owned Lothian Buses’ single fares are just £1.80, but elsewhere in Scotland passengers are paying rip-off fares to private bus companies, such as £2.65 for a two-mile journey in Greater Glasgow.’

As ever, BBC reporting fails to provide much in the way of critical assessment, context or perspective. So let’s try to fill the void a bit.

Similar demands of Labour’s Welsh Government

On 7 September 2022, when the Tory government announced this short term fare cap for England, Welsh Tory MP Alun Cairns called on the Welsh Government to follow suit. Mr Cairns noted: ’The average single fare for a 3-mile journey is estimated at over £2.80, meaning that the new fare will save passengers almost 30% of the price every time they travel.’

Source: https://www.aluncairns.com/news/alun-cairns-mp-calls-ps2-bus-fare-cap

This average £2.80 single fare is quoted in many accounts of the temporary fare cap in England. Interestingly, it’s higher than the so called ‘rip off’ £2.65 fare referred to in the BBC News website article by Labour in Scotland, albeit quoted for a ‘two-mile’ bus journey.  I wonder what two-mile journey Mr Bibby has selected here: I wonder what three-mile bus journeys in Greater Glasgow typically cost? More on this later.

On 20 September 2022, the Wales page of the BBC News website had an article under this heading: ‘Warm banks to get cash from Welsh government’ (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-62968256 ) It included this:

‘Earlier, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price called for Mark Drakeford to freeze rail fares and cap bus fares. In England the UK government has said it will hold off increasing rail fares until next March, and will then increase them below the rate of inflation. Bus journeys in England will also be capped at £2 from January to March.

‘Mr Drakeford did not rule out either measure, but questioned how Mr Price would pay for them from Welsh government budgets.

As far as I can determine, the Welsh Government has (so far) chosen not to accede to these opposition party demands, not to replicate the Tories’ short term £2.00 fare cap In England  For example, the Arriva bus website currently explains:

‘Where can I use the £2 fare? The £2 fare is only available in England outside of London. On cross border services into Wales you can travel for £2 if you’re catching the bus from England. However, normal fare stages will apply once the service enters Wales.’

(It’s worth noting that unlike the Scottish Government’s permanent concessionary fares, in England there is a long list of bus routes that are excluded from the present temporary fare cap. See: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/2-bus-fare-cap )

Labour reaction to England’s temporary fare cap – ‘another half baked measure’

When the Tories’ bus fare cap for England was first announced, the Labour opposition in Westminster was dismissive.  This was published by Sky News on 3 September 2022: ‘Labour said the fare cap plan was an inadequate “half measure”, with shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh adding: “This weekend Labour mayors will be lowering bus fares for millions of people for the long-term. The government’s temporary 90-day reprieve after years of soaring fares fails to match the scale of the crisis.’

See https://news.sky.com/story/cost-of-living-crisis-bus-fares-in-england-to-be-capped-at-2-between-january-and-march-12688316

As recently as 19 December 2022, in a news article published by the Mirror Online, we learn of this reaction from a leading Labour politician to the Tories’ temporary bus fare cap:

‘The Labour Mayor of West Yorkshire – where fares have been £2 since September – branded the scheme “half-baked”. Tracy Brabin said: “While our scheme will cap fares for three years, the Government’s scheme will only do so for three months. It won’t cover every bus operator, and without certainty on extending the Bus Recovery Grant we could still see operators cutting services or going to the wall in April. This is yet another half-baked measure from Government which simply doesn’t go far enough to tackle the real issues.”

Whilst in Scotland – permanently

Notably, in the same Mirror article, National Express chief executive said: “Even better, we’re also freezing child fares at £1.”  For comparison, in Wales Mytravelpass for 16-21 year olds is a discounted travel scheme funded by the Welsh Government. It entitles all 16–21 year-old residents in Wales to approximately 1/3 off bus fares. But truly ‘even better’, surely, is this: bus travel anywhere, for all children and young people in Scotland available, for the foreseeable future, free!

And as examples, In Edinburgh, the current single fare on Lothian Buses is £1.80 i.e. below the temporary capped fare in England and below the normal average fare of £2.80 in England.

Looking at bus fares in the Glasgow area, I visited the First Bus website to price journeys on First Glasgow services. I found this: ‘Introducing Tap On, Tap Off – TOTO, as we call it, offers the ultimate flexibility. … You’ll never pay more than:

– City or Local Zone = £4.50 two trip (return)

– Network Zone = £5.50 two trip (return)

See https://www.firstbus.co.uk/greater-glasgow/tickets/tickets

What constitutes these First Glasgow fare zones? The map below shows that the ‘City’ and ‘Local’ zones within which a return fare is (apparently) charged at a maximum of £4.50 covers a pretty big area!

Also on the First Glasgow website there is this: ‘.. unlimited travel on thousands of buses in and around the city, from just over £3 per day – with a Glasgow Tripper Card! Find out more about the Tripper Card here: https://www.glasgowtripper.co.uk/’  This scheme is operated by all the main bus operators in the greater Glasgow area.  

See also https://www.travelinescotland.com/fares for other bus fare deals.

Again, I wonder what two-mile journey in Greater GlasImagegow Mr Bibby selected that had a fare of £2.65? Now I have no local knowledge here so perhaps Mr Bibby’s example is unexceptional and I’m just getting too suspicious!

I do have to wonder if the BBC in a UK-wide news bulletin reported the Scottish Government’s introduction of FREE bus travel for children and young people up to age 22 everywhere in Scotland for the foreseeable future? Anyone?


8 thoughts on “On the buses: Labour demands of the Scottish Government what Labour in England terms a Tory ‘half baked measure’

  1. Pensioners get bus passes.

    Edinburgh the wealthiest City in Scotland. The transport system is subsidised with public monies. The trams were also a massive investment in cheaper travel. Not available in most major cities in Scotland. Hydrogen buses subsidised with public monies. To £multimillion bus companies. Edinburgh is getting another public monies funding team extension. £Billion becaus3 of bad, poor management. Labour. SNP got the Tram finished. Invested more after unionist poor, bad decisions.

    SNP Gov have build AWPR, railways and bridges on budget and on time despite the unionist/Green opposition. Making project cost more and held up from years.

    Glasgow has the public funded metro. Many rural services get cut. Putting more transport on the roads.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. OonkynEdunburgh residents can us3 bus passes on the trans. Despite taxpayers paying for the construction. More people use their bus pass on journeys tonthe Airport.

    Off peak bus pass journeys on the trans? for residents?


  3. Great bus service from Glasgow city to the Airport (every 10mins.). Glasgow City is nearer to the Airport. Takes longer to get to Edinburgh City from Edinburgh City 40mins. Edinburgh Airport is busier than Glasgow. More International flights and connections are going from Scotland. Slightly more expensive but less hassle and overnight stays. Anywhere but Heathrow. Time and extra expense.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Just another pack of lies from the pack of media liars doing its utmost to do Scotland down there is no authority that stops the British media lying .In any other country in the world a media that is lying on behalf of its politicians would be called propaganda , why would it be called propaganda ? because that’s what it is.


  5. Hardly anyone pays for bus journeys in Scotland , over sixties get it free , disabled get it free , under 25s get it free , most of those not included in this list of free beneficiaries are people who work and who go to work by car !


  6. Rish! was asked if he used private doctors for himself and family.
    Refused to answer.

    Wonder if the BEEB Hootsmon will ask Anas the same question?
    We know he is gung-ho for private education, as that seems to be a prerequisite for Scottish labour leaders.


  7. Ironic that the article stewarb referred to from HMS James Cook is still there at ONE day old despite my reading it on Thursday or Friday, but the good ole BBC Tardis can keep news current for weeks on end if required by the non-existent email reader for Scotland, James Cook… https://archive.ph/8C8NN

    It is not Anas’wi’teeth’s eloquence nor intellect nor indeed the argument itself which brings these astonishing Labour Scotland Twig stories to global media attention, nor friends within the BBC, this amplification is very much in the province of HMG etc..

    As to stewart’s ultimate question, he knows damned well James Cook et al will never report a good SG news story, nor did his predecessor Sarah Smith.


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