AN MSP AYRSHIRE is urging the Scottish Government to pour money in and help local authorities run their own bus services.
This follows the announcement that councils now have the power to support services across the country.
However, Transport Scotland insists the money has already been made available.
Katy Clark, Labor MSP for West Scotland, argued that more resources would allow North Ayrshire Council to permanently protect vital roads at risk, such as the X34 and X36 services which link Irvine, the three towns and the Garnock Valley in Glasgow.
Ms Clark, who was previously MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, said: ‘The implementation of these arrangements is incredibly welcome after years of campaigning by passenger groups and trade unions.
“However, few local authorities will feel able to set up their own networks unless they receive sufficient funding and resources from the Scottish Government.
“In fact, as it stands, councils are effectively incentivized to pursue partnerships with private operators through the Bus Partnership Fund.
“Everyone can see that the current model is broken, with operators pocketing millions in subsidies while raising prices and cutting services.
“Here in North Ayrshire, the drop in use due to the pandemic means that vital routes like the services serving Glasgow’s Garnock Valley are at risk as they are not ‘viable’.
“Ministers must allow local authorities and transport partnerships to explore setting up their own networks so that residents are finally served with routes based on need rather than profit.”
However, a spokesman for Transport Scotland said: ‘We have allocated £1m from the Scottish budget to develop the Community Bus Fund in 2022-23 to help local transport authorities improve bus services local authorities and explore the full range of options set out in the 2019 Act, including bus services run by local authorities.
“The recent Resource Spending Review allocated £46m to the Fund for the rest of this parliament, with a further £30m allocated as part of the Capital Spending Review.
“This complements a wider package of long-term investment, including through support for bus services, free transport schemes on preferential terms and over £500m of long-term investment. term for bus priority measures.
“The Scottish Government has also supported bus operators with up to £210million in Covid emergency funding since June 2020.
“This is on top of maintaining the bus service operator subsidy and concessional reimbursement at pre-Covid levels where we would normally spend over £260m a year.
“On April 1, we introduced the Network Support Grant, with up to £93.5m allocated for 2022-23.
“An additional £25.7m is being provided as part of a temporary clawback to extend the Network Support Grant Plus until October this year as services and demand adapt following of the pandemic.
“We are working hard and investing hundreds of millions to maintain local bus services.
“While more people are now using the bus than in recent weeks and months, passenger numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels.
“We encourage anyone who values their local bus service to use it where they can and can afford it.
“It’s the best way to allow local authorities to think about how best to provide these services in the future.”