In a united effort to deliver cleaner and more cohesive bus services across Glasgow, major operators recently formed the GlasGo Bus Alliance to achieve an ambitious  new five-year masterplan. By Anthony Harrington

 

Bus operators in Glasgow and the surrounding areas have come together for the first time in a collaborative partnership called the GlasGo Bus Alliance (GlasGo), with the shared aim to work together and, with other stakeholders, transform bus travel for the people of Glasgow.

GlasGo has set an ambitious five-year action plan, with a vision that will bring about a service offering seamless and timely connections for commuters, visitors and shoppers travelling across Glasgow, along with up to the minute timetables and bus information apps.

It is also planning to introduce caps on the cost of daily travel irrespective of which or how many different operator buses a commuter uses.  

To deliver some of the plans such as addressing road congestion, infrastructure, bus priority and traffic calming measures, GlasGo is already working in partnership with the region's local authorities and SPT through the Glasgow Bus Partnership Steering Group.

Fiona Doherty, Chair of GlasGo and Managing Director of Stagecoach West Scotland points out that the origins of this collaboration of ten 10 bus operators, which includes First, Stagecoach and McGills, goes back about two years. Like many projects, the impact of the global pandemic meant that GlasGo had to focus on other priorities for their customers, but the alliance is now in full swing, and is working with local and national decision makers.

“We are all committed to bringing about a real shift in favour of bus travel over car use. If we can do this, it will have a dramatic impact on Scotland’s drive to achieve Net Zero, and will improve the travel experience for everyone in Glasgow,” Doherty comments 

“Meaningful engagement with current and potential customers, affordable and easy to use ticketing, and improved and simplified travel information will be instrumental in encouraging more people to make a modal shift from car to bus. We are already working with the Scottish Government and councils with the aim of achieving a 50 percent improvement in bus journey times across Glasgow city centre within the next five years. We are also targeting a 20 percent improvement in journey speeds across the region,” Doherty comments. 

“We know that one bus, operating properly, removes the need for around 75 private car journeys, so this can bring about real cuts in transport carbon emissions,” she says. Similarly, according to GlasGo, a one percent move away from cars by the public will bring about a 12 percent increase in bus travel. To achieve increases in the use of zero-emissions buses on the scale envisaged is going to require significant investment in the road network and in traffic control signal infrastructure. 

Doherty points out that journey times can also be improved by the use, for example, of smart traffic lights. “The lights are able to read sensors in the bus and prioritise bus travel across intersections safely,” she comments. 

Emissions from bus travel have been reduced over the last few years by a number of measures, including the replacement of some 300 Glasgow buses running on diesel, with electric buses. 

“Our emissions have reduced to the point where our vehicles account for only four percent of all road transport emissions and this is rapidly decreasing,” Doherty says. 
GlasGo argues that in order to get Scotland closer to its ambitious Net Zero targets, people absolutely need to be convinced that bus travel can be convenient, swift and reliable and that it will provide all the connectivity that they need. 

“Cars contribute around 41 percent of all road transport greenhouse gas emissions, so getting people leaving their cars at home and taking the bus, is hugely important. It will be where the real carbon savings in transport will come from. If everyone in the UK took one more journey by bus rather than car it could deliver a reduction of 2 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year.” Doherty says.

Buses are already the first choice for many people when it comes to public transport, as can be seen from the fact that there are over 350 million bus journeys a year across Scotland, as against just 90 million train journeys. 

GlasGo is working with a wide range of stakeholders, including the Glasgow Avenues project, ScotRail, Transport Scotland, Visit Scotland, Bus Users Scotland and other groups.

It is actively supporting and complementing Glasgow City’s existing strategies and projects, including the Glasgow Bus Partnership, the Glasgow City Region Deal and the Glasgow City Transport Strategy. GlasGo will also work with the #lovemybus project from sustainable transport charity, Transform Scotland across all Greater Glasgow to promote all the future benefits of choosing bus as an affordable and greener travel solution. 

As part of the alliance’s determination to support Scotland’s Net Zero strategy, members have a strong focus on acquiring further zero-emission bus technologies. “At this stage with green hydrogen, it is early days and hydrogen-driven buses are not commercially viable,” Doherty says. The cost of hydrogen-driven buses will come down as demand for these buses ramps up across the globe. 

There is no doubt that bus has kept communities connected throughout the C19 pandemic and can help ensure the city does not become more congested through recovery. 

Doherty concludes: “This is a watershed moment for change. New low and zero emission buses are already cutting air pollution, improving health, creating jobs, contributing to a fairer city for everyone and critically, reducing emissions. All of these are critical to driving the economy. Although these are tough times, buses can also help tackle some of the biggest challenges we face for our future.” 

www.GlasGoBus.com

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Glaswegians invited to share ideas to achieve a greener, better service 

THE GlasGo Bus Alliance (GlasGo) launched a major travel survey on 25 October asking the people of Glasgow and the surrounding areas for their views as to what the future of bus travel in their City should look like. 

Commenting on the launch of the survey, Fiona Doherty, Chair of GlasGo said that “while we all have a clear vision for what we as operators want to achieve in next five years, we are very keen to hear how the public sees the future of bus travel. This survey offers a fantastic opportunity to truly understand people’s new travel requirements and to design a transport system that will benefit a world class city.

HeraldScotland:

“Our view is that the people of Glasgow need a bus service that offers seamless connections when they are travelling across the City and timetable information across all the operators that is coordinated, accurate and easy to find to make journey planning very easy for all travellers,” Doherty said. 

GlasGo is working in partnership with many stakeholders to achieve this, she points out.

Through its work with Transform Scotland, GlasGo is in partnership with #LoveMyBus across Greater Glasgow. The #LoveMyBus campaign is an aspirational movement to promote knowledge of the health and well-being benefits of bus travel. 

These include the increase in relaxation and the reduced stress that comes from not having to drive a car through traffic, plus the benefit to society from cutting the carbon emissions from private car trips. 

“GlasGo has outlined where we want bus travel to go in the future. Now we need to hear from the public. I’d encourage everyone to take this opportunity to have their say,” Doherty comments. 

“We all want an excellent bus network that delivers for the people of Glasgow. As bus operators, we know that there are some big challenges facing us in achieving this goal. We need to keep moving forward and work at pace towards delivering a simple-to-use, fast, smart, integrated bus network. As we make progress here, it will encourage more people to use the bus all across the City.”

The survey will run until the 12th of November and can be found on www.GlasGoBus.com.

Joan Aitken, Chair of the Glasgow Bus Partnership adds: “Despite these challenging times for the bus industry, working round the clock to deliver vital bus services whilst we experience a national driver shortage, it's great to see the alliance is pressing ahead in its efforts to transform the face of bus in the Glasgow region and seeking to hear the voice of the customer. Engaging with existing and potential customers is critical in ensuring real change is made to not only encourage more people out of cars and onto bus but to reduce the level of congestion in the city and surrounding areas.”

Jess Pepper from #lovemybus said: “This commitment from Glasgow’s bus operators to work together to deliver on this vision with the people and key partners across the city and surrounding area is exciting, there are many challenges ahead – working together the ambition can be achieved. #lovemybus will work with GlasGo to promote the role of buses in achieving a just, green recovery.”