Author: Fraser Sutherland, CAS Policy Officer
How true is the old saying you wait half an hour for a bus and then three turn up at once? Well if you speak to consumers in large parts of rural and remote Scotland you find there often is only one bus a day never mind three.
Scotland’s bus network is vital to our economy and keeping our citizens connected with essential services like healthcare, banking and education. It also plays an important role in getting people to and from work with one in ten workers commuting by bus every working day. Despite the important role that Scotland’s bus network plays a number of routes have been reduced or withdrawn in recent years as a result of falling passenger numbers and drops in public subsidies.
Our “Round The Bend” report looks at how easy it is for people living in over 113 local communities across Scotland to get to important local services such as: GP surgeries, hospitals, job centres, bank branches, colleges, supermarkets and post offices. We found a varying picture of connectivity with some urban communities well serviced while others in more remote parts of Scotland struggling to get necessary connections. 16 of our Citizens Advice Bureaux surveyed over 1,200 bus routes to get a bigger picture of what is happening at Scotland’s bus stops.
For example of all the communities we looked at 38% had no Sunday bus services that connected them to the nearest hospital and the average round trip travel time to the nearest bank branch in rural areas was over 40 minutes. Our research also revealed that jobseekers in some areas of Scotland are having to spend 15% of their income on one visit to the nearest jobcentre, a substantial cost that some struggle to manage.
Additionally while our research identified relatively good local connections to GP surgeries, we identified some rural areas where the catchment area of a GP did not match up with local bus provision. This means for some people who rely on public transport, they are not able to easily access GP services.
However we did find one service that is still easily accessible by a majority of people in Scotland, their local post office. Of the areas we looked at over two thirds could walk to their local Post Office while others faced a bus journey of less than 15 minutes on average. Post Offices are increasingly becoming an important asset given the increased services on offer in terms of paying bills, filling out government applications and even accessing and managing your bank account.
Our report also looked at how much was spent by Scotland’s local authorities and regional transport partnerships in subsidies to bus operating firms. Overall we found £11 was spent on bus subsidies for every adult in Scotland in 2015, this rises to over £30 per adult on Scotland’s island communities and as low as 55p in Aberdeen City. While local factors of geography and bus usage play a big role in determining the level of subsidy needed cuts to these budgets in some areas have seen services decline or be re-routed.
We want to know what bus services are like in your area and have put together a quick survey to get feedback on your local bus stories, you can fill it out here and help us campaign for better bus services all across Scotland.