WORKING families are being "priced out of public transport" and whole communities are being cut-off and 'ghettoised' because of unacceptable increases in bus fares, according to campaigners.

The warning comes as First Bus announced fare rises of up to 40 percent last week, prompting widespread condemnation. All seven of Glasgow's MPs have written to the bus company urging the firm to back down on the increases, while First Minister Surgeon expressed concerns in the Scottish Parliament following a motion laid down by Labour MSP Johann Lamont.

Rises to both single and all day tickets for adults and children mean that fares for one adult and two children to make a return journey of under two miles into Glasgow city centre now cost £7.50. An off-peak all-day family ticket (two children and two adults) now costs £9 while an Uber taxi fare for the same journey starts at just three pounds one way.

First Bus claims that good value is offered by its annual, ten week and weekly passes – the latter £17 for seven days – with additional discounts given for mobile payments. However campaigners say they are not cost effective for part-time or zero hours contract workers and point out discounts for paying with debit cards are not open to the one in ten Glaswegians who do not have a bank account.

Calls are intensifying for the Scottish Government to re-regulate the buses and for local authorities to take them back into public ownership. In Edinburgh, where single fares cost £1.60, Lothian buses is run as a municipal company and passenger numbers are increasing, bucking the national trend of slow decline. Several Scottish local authorities are understood to be considering adopting the model.

John Wilkes, head of the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in Scotland, said: "There is a real danger of some sections of our communities being priced out of public transport. At a time when wages are falling in real terms and in-work poverty is rising many people, especially those working part-time or on the minimum wage, will see an increasing proportion of their income spent on simply getting to and from work. Whilst accessible and affordable transport isn’t a “right” it does makes a vital contribution to getting the Scottish economy moving. It can’t be right that it’s cheaper for a family to get a taxi into Glasgow than a bus or train."

Keira McLean, a campaigner for Glasgow's Castlemilk Anti-Austerity group, said residents felt like the fare hikes were the latest in an "attack" that were "cutting communities off". "Our job centre was under threat, our local services are being cut and public transport is unaffordable," added McLean, who is a self-employed single mother. "It's creating a ghetto. People are struggling – they are angry, they are depressed. The system needs a complete overhaul."

John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said parents interviewed for recent research claim they regularly struggle to afford to take the bus, while children told of having to walk through "gang areas" because they didn't have the money for public transport. Poverty Alliance re-iterated the concerns.

Almost half of Glaswegians do not own a car and the figure rises to 70 percent in deprived areas such as Parkhead and Dalmarnock, more than double the Scottish average of 30 percent. In October a report by walking and cycling charity Sustrans found that one million Scots live in areas where they are at risk of "transport poverty" – where their travel costs outstrip their financial resources – in part because they are forced into care ownership they cannot afford.

Buses were deregulated by Margaret Thatcher's government in 1986. The Scottish Government is currently seeking to improve legislation with its consultation on the issues closing in December. A report is due later this year.

Jamie Caldwell of Unite the Union, who co-ordinates the Haud the Bus campaign set up in 2016 to fight cuts to bus routes, said First Glasgow hikes underlined the need for re-regulation and public ownership. "We need an affordable system," he said. "People have told us it's now cheaper to use cars. It's a real strain on both unemployed people and workers, who have seen wages stagnate." Last March a report by campaign group We Own It claimed £181 million were paid out to the shareholders of the UK's top five bus companies annually, citing the figures of evidence for the need for services to be put back into public control.

Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said it was essential to curb fares in order to reduce car congestion and bring down air pollution and climate emission. “With the right type of regulation and support from Government and local authorities, our bus networks can be expanded and fleets modernised, making the bus the smart choice for everyone," she added.


First Bus

"We believe that our Fare ranges offer both choice and value for money. It should be noted that the child fare has been around the same level since 2011. Many fares in Glasgow are cheaper or the same as they were three years ago.We also offer a choice for people looking for the most convenient way to purchase our tickets, from agents, on-line, via a mobile, on bus contactless payments and cash. Public consultation on Bus Services has recently been run by Transport Scotland. We await the outcome of this and look forward to working with Local Authorities in delivering a reliable and attractive bus service in across Scotland." On Thursday First Bus agreed to review the proposed increases on ticket for unemployed people.

Strathclyde Passenger Transport (SPT)

"Bus fares are decided by operators and SPT has no input or control over them. Long term everyone, nationally and locally, must work in partnership to find affordable solutions to improve public transport.”

Transport Scotland

“Despite these fare increases being lower than the UK as a whole, we understand that passengers will be concerned over increasing bus fares. Bus service provision in Scotland operates in an open market, and as such individual bus operators use their commercial judgement to decide on service routes, fare structure and frequency. The [Transport] Minister has regular meetings with the bus industry and will raise the issue of increased fares with First Bus during his next meeting. Passengers will rightly expect a reliable and regular service for the money they pay."


In 2016, 409 million trips – 76 percent of all public transport journeys – were made by bus, meaning an estimated 290,000 people take the bus to work.

Fares in Scotland have risen by almost 19 percent over the past five years.

Scottish bus companies earned profit margins of 8.6 per cent on average in 2016, a reduction of nearly one percent. Operating costs have risen from £1.27 per passenger journey to £1.46 in the last five years.

The Scottish Government pays out £53.5m each year in bus service operators grants.

Buses contribute about five percent of road transport carbon emissions, compared to 60 percent for cars.