YOUR report on Scottish Transport Statistics ("Public transport journeys drop by eight million as car use rises", The Herald, February 27) and the related Catriona Stewart column ("If we want to cut car use, free bus travel must be for everyone", The Herald, February 28) say public transport trips in 2018 were down 2.2 per cent on 2017 (and almost 10 per cent on 2013) with car kilometres up 7.7 per cent since 2013. Yet growth in car kilometres is now much lower than between 1960 and 2000 while a record level of multiple cars available to households has lowered levels of car occupancy, though worsening parking problems.

Actual kilometres travelled by car in 2018 are likely to be no higher than in 2013. Over the same period ScotRail passenger kilometres have risen 16 per cent with strong growth in shorter trips around both Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as over longer distances. People have been moving from both bus and car to rail use (and partly to active travel).

Contrary to the headline in your news report, passenger kilometres by public transport have risen both for shorter and longer distance travel. Data for the former should not be restricted to buses but needs to include Edinburgh tram trips (already rising faster than bus use in Edinburgh with extensive plans for tram extension) and use of the Glasgow Subway (due to shift to automated operation in 2021 as part of a wider Metro network) and possibly to the taxi, private hire and demand-responsive sector – often overlooked in data but showing growth tendencies.

Ms Stewart has omitted these issues but is on strong ground in arguing for lower fares and improved frequency and reliability on city and urban public transport. Ultimately, this could mean free use of local public transport but, rather than a package extending free travel to 19-year-olds, there is a strong case to introduce much lower public transport zonal fares across Scotland by 2025 along with longer-distance rail and coach fares which include shorter trips within local zones plus effective bus priorities with off-vehicle fare issue (and possibly fewer bus stops) aiding bus trip times.

Given funding constraints, peak fares in cities Mondays to Fridays may have to be higher. Funding for these changes could be seen as an issue but needs to be set against economic and social gains. With the UK Budget due, there is a strong case for replacing the 10-year freeze on road fuel duties (in effect a cut in the costs of car use) with an immediate rise in such duties linked to the financing of public transport fares reform and medium-term plans to introduce direct road charging to replace income losses as non-oil fuelled road vehicles rise. Other funding could also come from workplace charging, tourism and property levies, rising taxation of air travel and reform of present arrangements for free bus travel across Scotland to offer free public transport travel within each of Scotland's main regions for those of state pension age, disabled or under 19.

Tom Hart, Beith.

WE seem to be heading in entirely the wrong direction with our transport strategy, as bus usage has gone down by 10 per cent in the last five years.

Transport policy in Scotland is completely ineffective and has done nothing to encourage people to leave their cars and take the bus; we have poured money into white elephant park and ride schemes that are only used for Christmas shopping.

The companies running our bus services are only influenced by profit and subsidy, leaving many parts of Scotland without any bus service whatsoever.

The time is now right for local authorities to take over bus services and develop a cheap, well-networked service making it attractive to take the bus and helping with cleaning up our heavily-polluted atmosphere.

Dennis Forbes Grattan, Aberdeen AB21.

THE UK Government has been caught out on Heathrow expansion: it did not carry out the environmental due diligence required by law (and the Paris Agreement), so the third runway is, for the time being, a flight of fancy ("Bosses fear disaster after third runway bid rejected", The Herald February 2).

If you believe in an economically “balanced” UK, this is a good thing. Expansion of Heathrow, like HS2, will only be of benefit to the southern half of England, and will suck investment, jobs and talent out of the rest of the UK to the already over-heated economy of London and its environs. I fear this halt will only be temporary, as money talks in this country, and the money is concentrated in London’s Square Mile. Meanwhile as Boris Johnson sets the stage for a deal-free Brexit, he prepares to flood the country with borrowed money (while avoiding the actual floods): flood the already bloated House of Lords with even more Tory stooges and party donors. The honeymoon for Boris is nearly over, I would venture.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.