Public Transport (Safety and Practicability During Covid-19 Outbreak)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

8. To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to ensure that public transport is safe and practicable for people using it during the Covid-19 outbreak. (S5O-04403)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

We recently published the transport transition plan, which contains comprehensive guidance for our transport operators, staff and members of the public during the recovery phase of Covid-19. The guidance has been informed by transport operators, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, regional transport partnerships, passenger groups and trade unions and, at a minimum, will be reviewed in line with the Scottish Government’s regular three-weekly review of lockdown requirements.

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

The rules that the Government has recently introduced limit to 10 the number of passengers allowed on a bus at any time. Although that fits with the guidelines and, given the Covid-19 situation, appears to be a sensible route to take, it has caused concern in the bus industry. First Bus Scotland director Andrew Jarvis said that due to buses being able to carry only 25 per cent of their capacity,

“we will very quickly run out of resource, capacity and money as we progress through the Government’s plan to lift lockdown measures”.

Does the Scottish Government recognise that picture of a bus system that could end up on its knees? What steps will it take to address the sector’s concern about sustainability, which, in his answer to Brian Whittle’s question, the cabinet secretary said was so important?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

As the member will have heard in my response to Brian Whittle, we moved very quickly as a Government to take decisive action to support the bus industry with the provision of access to concessionary fare funding and to bus service operators grant funding.

The member raises an important issue, which is the physical constraints in the transport sector, and buses in particular, due to the 2m physical distancing requirement. We are engaging with the bus sector to consider other measures that we could put in place to mitigate that. We have provided funding to Alexander Dennis Ltd—ADL—to explore what adaptations could be made to buses, and research is being undertaken at pace to see whether adaptations could be deployed to increase significantly the number of passengers on buses, given the current capacity constraints. We are also engaging with the bus industry to look at what further financial support might be necessary to support the industry in the future and to ensure that passenger services are provided equitably across the country.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That concludes portfolio questions on transport, infrastructure and connectivity. I apologise to members who wanted to ask supplementary questions. I feel that other members who have logged questions should have a chance to ask them.

14:51 Meeting suspended.

15:01 On resuming—