PASSENGERS have been hit with inflation busting hikes in bus fares that will see children and the unemployed pay hundreds of pounds extra every year.

Bus giant First Glasgow has announced that fares for under 16s will rise by more than 40 per cent.

Unemployed passengers have also been hit with a 10 per cent hike in fares, which campaigners claim will make it hard for some to sign on for benefits.

Overall, single adult tickets on the firm’s routes have soared by more than 15 per cent which comes as train fares rise by 3.4 per cent on average and make the daily commute increasingly unaffordable.

First Glasgow acknowledged the fare rises would impact on household budgets but insisted that overall prices offered “value for money” adding that fares bought electronically had been frozen.

But campaigners were furious at the latest hike and called on the bus network to be brought back into public hand.

A national consultation on the future of bus services across Scotland closed last month amid growing anger at rising fares.

The Scottish Government consultation proposes Local Transport Authorities be given the power to take buses into public ownership and operate highly regulated franchises.

Campaigners are now calling for Glasgow City Council and surrounding councils, which presently make up Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, to assume ownership of services as happens in Edinburgh where fares are much cheaper.

Ellie Harrison, campaigner for Get Glasgow Moving, said: “Glasgow is already being held to ransom by private bus companies and this latest rise only makes it worse. It is totally unacceptable.

“Children and the unemployed have no choice but to use buses or other forms of public transport and are probably the two sectors of society that can least afford more fare rises.”

“Buses provide a vital lifeline for the 30 per cent of Scottish households who do not have a car. This figure is worse in more deprived areas with half of Glaswegians not having access to car. “This lack of public or private transport means they may struggle to get to work, to socialise or to access public services.

“The Scottish Government must act to challenge this injustice and help provide affordable public transport to help people participate fully in society.”

The latest fare rises come as the number of bus journeys fell from 436 million in 2011-12 to 409 million in 2015-16, with provisional estimates of a further fall to 393 million last year.

Over the same period fares have risen by nearly 60 per cent which has contributed to a six per cent decline in bus journeys in Scotland.

According to independent analysis from auditors KPMG, reduced bus service routes and increased bus journey times arising from congestion accounted for a fall of 5.9 million trips, with increases in bus fares putting people off four million trips.

Commissioned by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT Scotland), the report also highlights the impact of government policy and investment decisions, showing expenditure on bus services fell by 11 per cent in real terms over the four-year period, with support for rail per passenger trip said to be roughly ten times that for each bus passenger.

Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport, invited the public to share their views on local bus services in September but stated that he believes the problem is ‘not who owns the buses’.

Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “These above-inflation increases may encourage more people to drive or make life harder for the many people already struggling financially.

“Public transport is a public service and should be affordable for all at the point of use.”

“The Scottish Government should give Glasgow City Council the powers to properly regulate the bus sector so that it can put a cap on fares and better protect users. Transport for London, which operates a franchise model, caps daily bus fares at £4.40.”

Jamie Caldwell of union Unite added: “These fare rises are again evidence that we need to re-regulate the buses to put people before profit.

“The rise in fares for unemployed people is even more alarming as even if they are sanctioned, they have to still sign on and job centre closures across Scotland means more jobseekers are relying on public transport which will be massive stress on people trying to survive. “ Bus operators in Scotland said practical change was needed to help buses flourish and deliver better services for passengers.

Andrew Jarvis, Managing Director at First Glasgow, said: “Value for money remains the focus for First Glasgow and we are confident this has been delivered through our most recent fares review, which generally sees a price freeze, and in some cases a reduction, through our mTicket App.

“Many more of our customers are now taking advantage of this new payment method and with usage increasing, we are confident many more of our customers will benefit from the changes announced today.

“As a business We do recognise the pressure on household budgets and so for those fares which have increased, we have kept the increase to a minimum in order to limit this impact.

“Like many businesses we always need to review our prices as this enables us to further invest in services locally as well as new technology, both of which benefit our customers in the longer term.” But John Finnie MSP, the Scottish Greens’ transport spokesman, said: “Many bus passengers will be asking why their ticket price is going up while the punctuality of the service, in many cases, is getting worse.

“As a party, we’ve long campaigned for the re-regulation of bus services, in part, because having the ability to negotiate and set parameters for fare increases can deliver a better deal for passengers in the longer term.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Despite these fare increases being the lowest in the UK, we understand that passengers will be concerned over increasing bus fares.

“Whilst the Scottish Government contributes over £50m a year through the Bus Service Operators Grant to help bus operators keep fares at affordable levels, bus service provision in Scotland operates in an open market and individual bus operators use their commercial judgement to decide on service routes, fare structure and frequency. “The Minister has regular meetings with bus companies and will raise the issue of increased fares with First Glasgow during his next meeting. Passengers will rightly expect a reliable and regular service for the money they pay.

“The Scottish Government has recently consulted on proposals for closer working partnership working between local authorities and bus operators as well as options to allow local franchising or the introduction of local authority-led bus operations.”