FRESH calls have been made to renationalise bus services in Glasgow as critics condemned the axing of night time services that will hit vulnerable groups and those on low incomes the hardest.

As exclusively revealed by The Herald on Monday morning, First Glasgow has announced the controversial decision to scrap all night bus services in the city from July 31.

It said, having already reduced bus numbers previously, as few as 14 people are using each bus at a time and so the routes are no longer financial viable.

Local politicians and charities have hit back at the decision, calling it "completely unjust" at a time when Scots are being urged to use public transport and active travel.

READ MORE: Shock as First Glasgow axes vital night bus service

Glasgow's Scottish Greens councillors are demanding the bus company retain the Friday and Saturday late night services and reform them to improve uptake. 

Greens’ Transport Spokesperson Christy Mearns said: "There clearly is a need and a demand for night buses, so it would seem more sensible for services to be reviewed to better meet customer needs and increase uptake, rather than slashed entirely. 

"It’s vital that all partners urgently come together to figure out how the service can be retained and improved.

"Glasgow’s passengers rightly expect public transport to be available when it is needed, so this is an extremely disappointing backwards step. 

"For Glasgow to reduce car dependency and have a thriving night-time economy, we must have a public transport system that meets this ambition."

First Glasgow said the decision has been made following a 12-month period of monitoring passenger numbers and said numbers would need to treble in order to make the routes viable.

Glasgow Greens' communities spokesperson Anthony Carroll added: "Our daytime routes are well known, and if we replicated those, at least in those central hubs in our communities, then perhaps the familiarity can help increase uptake overnight. 

"It will also help in addressing issues with Transport Scotland in allowing Under-22 NEC cards to allow free travel on them.

"Locking large parts of our city out of our transport network late at night serves no-one in Glasgow. 

"It's time these public transport providers start running our buses in the public interest." 

Currently, routes such as the N38 and N57 only travel from the city centre south-bound, not to the north and east, leaving many communities across the city cut off and unable to access these services.

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Transport Scotland's do not allow young people to use valid under-22 National Entitlement Cards for free travel on night time routes - something the Greens claim could be resolved by matching routes like-for-like with their daytime counterparts.

Councillor Holly Bruce, Glasgow Greens’ Equalities spokesperson, added: “Axing the night bus service will have huge safety implications for women, vulnerable people and people of marginalised genders. 

"This decision ignores people’s specific transport needs and restricts access to jobs, healthcare and socialising. 

"The evidence is clear: Glaswegians want more, not less, evening services that are affordable, accessible, safe and convenient." 

The move was also slammed by charities such as the Poverty Alliance, which pointed to the fact transport companies are part-funded by the public purse.

Poverty Alliance Director Peter Kelly said: “This announcement is completely unjust and will hit Glaswegians on low incomes the hardest – people who work night shifts and early shifts in the kind of jobs that are already undervalued.

"This is another example of our vital bus networks being run by companies who put profit over public service. 

"These companies get around 55% of their income direct from the public purse, and a huge chunk of the rest from the pockets of people on the lowest incomes, who are struggling the most during the costs crisis. 

"These services should be accountable to those who rely on them most." 

Mr Kelly added: "It doesn’t have to be like this. 

"The Scottish Government can fund free bus travel for people who need it most - and get everyone aboard on the road to a freer, fairer, greener Scotland.

"And – to get the most impact from that social investment - they can properly fund and and support local councils and community transport providers to use the powers of the Transport Act, so they can run their own bus services and return to treating buses as a basic public good."

The announcement comes just weeks after the introduction of the first low emission zone in Scotland in Glasgow, prompting further scrutiny of the city's public transport system with criticisms that transport options in the city are unsatisfactory.

First Glasgow said the change will affect 11 routes that operate across the city in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The decision has been described by the SLTA (Scottish Licensed Trade Association) as “yet another hammer blow” for the licensed trade as the industry approaches peak tourist season.

Colin Wilkinson, SLTA managing director, said: “A city the size of Glasgow should offer a night bus service so that people enjoying an evening out and those working in hospitality can get home safely.

“With the recent introduction of the Low Emission Zone on many vehicles and fewer taxis in the city since the pandemic, some licensed trade businesses are really worried about the impact the removal of night buses will have when they are still trying to claw back business post-pandemic and amid the cost-of-living crisis.

“The SLTA has spoken previously about the chronic lack of late-night transport provision in Glasgow so this is not the news we want to hear as we approach the peak tourist season.

“Our fear is that people will simply not bother travelling into Glasgow city centre if getting home is going to be such a challenge. It’s extremely bad news for the city’s pubs, bars, restaurants and clubs.”

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Scottish Labour Transport spokesperson Alex Rowley said: “This is a huge blow to Glasgow and to communities across the West of Scotland.

“Bus services across Scotland are collapsing while the SNP stands idly by – this cannot continue.

“Our communities, economy and environment desperately need better buses, but more of the same won’t deliver that.

“It’s time to help councils bring buses back into public hands so we can run services for people instead of profits and deliver the reliable, affordable services we need.”

Graeme Macfarlan, Commercial Director at First Bus Scotland, said: “We were delighted to be able to reintroduce our night bus network last June in an attempt to support the city’s night-time economy.

“Despite a wide variety of efforts by First Glasgow and partner organisations to increase the number of people using the night buses, it has not reached the level required to sustain these services beyond July."

Drivers will be redeployed into the daytime network to further support existing services across the city where passenger recovery is strong and additional capacity is required.

First Glasgow reintroduced its night bus services in June 2022 to help boost the night-time economy in the city as Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

First Glasgow’s night buses covered travel from the city centre across Glasgow and the surrounding areas including Clydebank, Paisley, Newton Mearns, East Kilbride, Hamilton, Motherwell and Wishaw.
Glasgow City Council and Transport Scotland have been contacted for comment.