Public Transport (Modal Shift)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 February 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Richard Leonard Richard Leonard Labour

3. I remind members of my entry in the “Voluntary” section of the register of interests.

To ask the Scottish Government what steps it has taken to encourage a modal shift to public transport. (S6O-03072)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

This Government is committed to modal shift: as we continue to invest and support an affordable and accessible transport system, we are finding ways to promote public transport as an attractive option.

For example, almost half the population of Scotland is eligible for free bus travel through our concessionary fares schemes, and the extended ScotRail peak fares removal pilot encourages the use of public transport. In addition, we continue to invest in infrastructure, drawing on examples such as the Falkirk stadium electric vehicle charging hub, in Richard Leonard’s region, where active travel links to the town enable people to choose more sustainable modes of transport.

Photo of Richard Leonard Richard Leonard Labour

Getting people out of their cars and on to public transport is vital if the Scottish Government is to meet its climate change targets, yet ScotRail—a company that is wholly owned by the Scottish Government—is trying to force through driver-only operations, which would remove safety-critical guards. After two years, the Scottish Government is still considering the axing of ticket office hours, and total safety-critical railway renewal spending for the next five years is £315 million lower than it was in the previous funding period, with 70 front-line workers having been made redundant over the past few months. Will the Scottish Government rule out extending driver-only operations and cutting ticket office hours and will it reverse its planned cuts to safety-critical railway investment?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I think that Richard Leonard is mistaken. He will know that I wrote to him on 19 January to point out the mistakes in the analysis that seemed to imply a reduction in the rail budget. The rail budget for the issues that he refers to has gone up. There has been an 8 per cent increase in spending on maintenance and a 4 per cent increase in operations spending for control period 7. The budget for the railway system has gone up from a pre-pandemic level of £1 billion to £1.6 billion.

I agree that staff presence on railways is really important because it gives people a sense of safety. The Government is committed to ensuring that our railways operate safely. We do that through maintenance and staffing. Richard Leonard will be aware that ScotRail is expanding its staffing and is recruiting staff. It is important to members that, having written to the member on 19 January—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

We must move on. I call Bob Doris for a brief supplementary question.

Photo of Bob Doris Bob Doris Scottish National Party

Removal of barriers and encouraging greater use of buses will be crucial to securing a modal shift away from car journeys. To what extent does the free bus travel scheme for under 22s help to remove barriers? How many journeys have been taken as part of that scheme since January last year?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The under-22s scheme has been a great success and has demonstrated the appetite for sustainable travel. Many young people travel by bus a number of times a week, and are making habitual use of public transport. Since 1 January this year, more than 7 million journeys have been made by under 22s in Scotland.