UNAFFORDABLE and unreliable local public transport is locking the poorest families in Glasgow and Inverclyde out of the jobs market.

That's the view of a new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which examined issues for the unemployed in Port Glasgow and Castlemilk and revealed that the accessibility of key areas of employment using public transport is often "very restricted".

The researchers said that the "unreliability" of local buses is at risk of creating new ‘cut-off commuter zones’ where people are unable to consistently guarantee punctuality when travelling longer distances for work.

This "serious disconnect" between the location of jobs and low-income neighbourhoods was "constraining people’s ability to seize job opportunities when they arise", according to the report.

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They called on the Scottish Government, local authorities and transport bodies to act to ensure bus franchising powers are used to "improve the availability, affordability and reliability of services, to make it easier for people on low incomes to access employment".

They said the planning process should be improved to ensure new housing and employment developments are well served by public transport.

They said that Port Glasgow ought to be well connected to the wider city region, given the range of potential transport modes available, including bus and rail.

But the study observed that "significant portions" of the city region are more than an hour away by public transport, including much of Glasgow.


While Castlemilk was around five-and-a-half miles to Glasgow city centre and would take typically around 30 minutes at 8am in a car, the journey takes around 45 minutes by public transport but, but that is if services run on time.

The study conducted by Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield said transport was consistently highlighted as a significant barrier to work once the trade-off between the cost, reliability and speed of local public transport; and the prospect of low-wage, insecure work was considered.

For many low-income families the cost of purchasing and then running their own car was not affordable and makes them fully reliant on public transport.

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The study said concerns were raised that due to the "insecure and competitive nature" of the jobs, residents were going for, "poor productivity caused by delays that could easily result in a reduction of their hours or being let go".

One 61-year-old Port Glasgow resident told researchers he had to give up a job as a security guard on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Paisley because of a combination of transport issues and job insecurity. The commute involved catching a bus from his house to Port Glasgow railway station to get the train to Paisley, followed by a bus ride to his place of work for a 12-hour shift between 5pm and 5am.

The journey usually took over an hour each way but delays could significantly lengthen his commute and long working day.

"I was leaving the house at half three [in the afternoon] and I wasn’t getting home the next morning till eight [in the morning], then get four hours sleep and get back up and go back again," he said.

A 48-year-old woman from Castlemilk added: "It could be a nightmare. If a bus doesn't turn up, you could get the sack. It affects the house and everything. I hate being late. It puts me off changing [buses]. Employers expect you to be there nine to five. If you're not, it's like, 'Right, out the door!'"


Brian Robson, acting head of policy and research at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “It’s unacceptable that large numbers of people seeking work are being locked out of job opportunities simply because of poor public transport connections. The experiences of low-income residents make it abundantly clear that we must properly invest in transport networks within cities not just between them.

“Currently unaffordable and unreliable public transport is holding people back from being able to achieve a better standard of living. With more powers being devolved to city and local leaders, now is the time to redesign our transport, housing and economic policies so that everyone can get into work and progress in their careers.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We are committed to supporting services and tackling the historic decline in bus passenger numbers. The Transport (Scotland) Bill will support local authorities to meet local needs, whether they wish to pursue partnership working, local franchising, or running their own buses where appropriate.  Local authorities can already run their own services in some limited circumstances, as some do. The Bill extends these powers. 

“The Scottish Government is investing up to £96m in Fair Start Scotland, a new devolved employability support service to help people find work. As a voluntary and inclusive service, Fair Start Scotland aims to help 38,000 unemployed people in Scotland to find sustainable jobs, including people who are further from the labour market.  Fair Start Scotland participants receive tailored support taking into account their personal circumstances to remove barriers to accessing employment. 

“We are currently undertaking a review of the National Transport Strategy, which will consider our long-term approach to ensuring the affordability of transport across Scotland."