Glasgow is suffering from the lack of a dynamic figure who could transform the city's transport network and reinvigorate the city, a Labour MSP has claimed.

Paul Sweeney futher said that it was "unedifying and debasing" for parliamentarians and councillors to have to write to transport bosses asking for an improvement in service.

The Glasgow region MSP spoke following the sudden announcement last Monday from First Glasgow that it was to end 11 night bus services in the city on July 31.

Following five days of outcry and widespread condemnation of the move, First Bus said it would extend the service until August 20 when new enhancements to existing routes are expected to begin.

READ MORE: Glasgow's night bus axe is an embarrassment for the city

Meanwhile, operator McGill's had said it was working to take over five or potentially six of the routes.

However, Mr Sweeney was emphatic that franchising is the most sensible way forward for Glasgow, Scotland's largest city and yet one suffering the lack of an integrated and 24 hour transport system.

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He said: "The priority of First Bus is not about the city economy and how to run a holistic enterprise that supports economic growth and social justice in the city.

"That's really why it should be under a public transport authority's control.

"The managing director of First Bus, Duncan Cameron, makes the point about congestion on Glasgow's roads and the resulting inefficiency driving delays, but I feel like we're trapped in a vicious cycle where public transport in Glasgow is unreliable, it's expensive and it's confusing to use.

"It's repelling demand, rather than creating it."

He added: "Franchising would compel the operator to work to a standard set by the public transport agency.

"Which is why we need to move towards something like the Bee-network that Manchester has.

"Manchester had to fight off legal challenge from the bus operators to do it but they are building the infrastructure while Glasgow is just floundering."

There are provisions in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 to allow for franchising of transport operators but these have lain dormant since the act was passed and await movement from Scottish ministers to activate them.

READ MORE: First Glasgow to delay end to night bus services

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland said the work to implement bus provisions was paused due to "pandemic-related resourcing pressures for both the Scottish Government and local transport authorities."

Local authorities already have the power to run their own buses, such as Lothian Buses in Edinburgh, and these powers sit alongside their ability to subsidise services.

Transport Scotland said secondary legislation to enable bus franchising and partnership options will be introduced before the end of this year, and this will enable franchising by local transport authorities.

But Mr Sweeney said there was little appetite to do this due to a nervousness around the bus company response.

He said: "I think SPT is terrified to even say the word franchising lest they be sued by the bus companies.

"You also don't have that overarching dynamic figure who is pulling everyone together like [Andy] Burnham [Mayor of] Greater Manchester to take it on and fight for it.

"It's left to bureaucrats to do it and they're all very risk adverse.

"I think they privately admit that it does need franchising, but they won't publicly say it's the way to go."

The MSP said franchising would bring back single ticketing to the city and a single livery of which Glasgow could be proud.

Control of the fare box would, he said, allow for the balancing of deficits on one route with surpluses on others.

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He said: "I worked out that in 1986, the equivalent - if you round up to 2019 inflation - Strathclyde Regional Council spent £28 million at 2019 prices subsidising bus services but in 2019 SPT spent £31m on subsidised bus contracts across Strathclyde.

"So we're paying the same for a far worse service. Private companies are extracting fortunes out of the system and I'm not sure what we've got that's improved.

"Nothing is going to change until we get franchising so all this performative writing letters, I find it quite unedifying and a bit debasing for parliamentarians and councillors to be doing this.

"I don't see any point in meeting these bus companies and begging them to see sense. It basically, until you've got control of the fare box, you're not going to have any compulsion on the system."

Speaking to The Herald, First Bus has said that franchising would not make a different to the efficiency of running the bus service because it "doesn't matter whose name is above the door", the lack of space to prioritise buses on Glasgow roads creates congestion that slows up services.

READ MORE: First Glasgow boss says bar staff could drive night buses

It points to the city council and says the local authority should be doing more to free up space for buses on the roads.

In 2022 Glasgow City council announced plans to look at at alternative ways of running bus services in Glasgow, such as a transport authority having future control over bus routes, fares and timetables.

A statement said: "The council will now engage with the Scottish Government and partners to seek funding for the business case work.

"Subject to funding being secured and the introduction of secondary legislation that will enable bus franchising, business case development for options on changes to bus governance could start in 2023/24."

However, there has been no suggestion changes will be implemented this year.

At a local council level, Mr Sweeney said Glasgow has a: "Fragmented transport system and fragmented population base so I feel Glasgow is in a particular funk on this issue and it desperately needs a much more robust and rigorous strategy."

While at a government level, Mr Sweeney said there is an "institutional inertia, a hollowed out civil service, a lack of experience of these things, and I also think there's a cultural risk aversion to taking on controversial issues like this where there is a risk of legal action and facing that down."

But, he added: "We should emulate Manchester and ride on their slipstream.

"There is an anti-Glasgow bias that the city is not seen as a priority because Edinburgh is already settled with its public bus company. If Edinburgh had this problem it would have been sorted already.

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"It's part of a wider issue: Glasgow is losing population share, it has lost out on the freeport, it has the only airport in Europe without a rail link, a subway that shuts at ridiculous hours and causes an embarrassment to us when people are coming for big events.

"Glasgow is being short changed."

The leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken, was given the chance to respond.

SPT was contacted for comment. On Friday the transport authority released a statement on the withdrawal of Glasgow's night bus services with an FAQ.

It states that the "people of Strathclyde deserve better, and change is undoubtedly required".

Work on a new Regional Bus Strategy is, SPT said, being accelerated.