MORE than 21 million free bus journeys have been made by under-22s in Scotland since the travel scheme was introduced.

The Young Persons’ (under-22) Free Bus Travel Scheme began on January 31 and gives all those aged five to 21 years old the ability to travel on public transport free of charge.

More than half of those eligible already benefit from the scheme, according to the Scottish Government, despite administration issues when the initiative was launched.

SNP Transport Minister, Jenny Gilruth, said: “As outlined in the Programme for Government, I’m pleased we are continuing to promote free bus travel for under-22s.

“With over 21 million free bus journeys made by under-22s across Scotland, this landmark policy is already helping young people and families with children cut costs for everyday and leisure travel, while at the same time protecting our climate.

“With the majority of eligible young people now having access to free bus travel all across Scotland, for local journeys and further afield, now is the time to begin a new campaign aimed at those who may not have considered using the bus before.

“Free bus travel helps with transport affordability, it helps our young people access education and leisure destinations – all while helping us meet our net zero targets by encouraging a shift away from cars.”

A National Entitlement Card (NEC) or Young Scot NEC is required to travel free of charge.

Kirsten Urquhart, chief executive of Young Scot, said: “Nationwide bus travel for under-22-year-olds not only supports young people to make travel choices that benefit them and their pockets – even more pertinent in the emerging cost crisis – but provides a way for them to experience new places, access a wider range of opportunities, and have fun.

“Hearing from so many young people about the benefits of using the Young Scot National Entitlement Card to make free journeys is uplifting and I hope this new campaign will continue to encourage more under-22s to sign up.”

Scottish Green transport spokesperson, Mark Ruskell, said: “We always knew there would be a lasting financial benefit for people who can now travel for free, be that for work, education or leisure, improving that social mobility.

“But it really has come at the most vital of times during this cost crisis, helping hard squeezed families and individuals at a time when household incomes are being stretched on so many fronts.

“The huge uptake from young people speaks volumes, and so it is only right that we try and extend this group of users as far and wide as we possibly can and encourage as many free journeys as possible.

“It is also part of how bus services recover after Covid. It will take time and it is vital the Government keeps putting out the message that using the bus is safe and free for young people and for older and disabled people.”

He added: “With more journeys taking place, I hope it will ensure and encourage operators to maintain high levels of connectivity for communities and resist cutting routes while services are still building back.

“There are also massive environmental benefits to be had, not only by reducing the number of unnecessary car journeys, but also by changing attitudes.

“These journeys will be habit forming and ultimately lead to less cars on the road.

“The pass is already building independence and confidence in young people to use the bus first, that’s a life skill that will stick.”