In 2015 Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) published a report, Remotely Excluded, which used our advice statistics to identify the major issues facing consumers in rural Scotland. One of the most important themes identified by Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) and our clients was the difficulty people had accessing essential services, such as healthcare and work opportunities, using the bus network. To look more closely at what was happening with public transport across Scotland we carried out regional research lead by 16 of our local CAB members.
We present this report as a collaborative research project covering the experience of 113 local communities in Scotland which identifies some of the key concerns regarding bus provision in Scotland today.
This research gathered information on over 1,200 journeys from 133 home locations to key essential services, focussing on travel times, distances and cost to the following locations: workplace, supermarket, GP surgery, hospital, jobcentre, college, bank branch and post office.
This research identified a wide range of journey times from people being able to reach a GP in less than fifteen minutes by bus, to those who took more than an hour to get to the nearest college. Scotland’s Post Office network was the best connected with people in over two thirds of the areas surveyed being able to walk to their nearest one.
While earlier research suggests that 55% of bus users feel buses are good value for money, we found price also varied substantially across Scotland’s bus routes ranging from 7p per mile to £1.80 per mile. In the Nairn area bus journeys were identified as costing those on job seekers allowance 15% of their income for one return journey to the nearest job centre, while a round trip to a local supermarket could cost someone on full time minimum wage 5% of their weekly income.
Using information provided by Scotland’s local authorities and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport we also established that Scotland spent £48 million on bus subsidies to operators in 2015. This equates to £10.67 per adult in Scotland, and ranges widely from £108 per adult in the Western Isles to as low as £0.55 in Aberdeen City.
Other notable findings include:
- 38% of locations surveyed had no Sunday service that connected them with local hospitals
- In remote rural areas the median cost of a return ticket to the nearest Job Centre was £9.00
- Consumers in the rural areas surveyed face an average 40 minute round trip to access the nearest bank branch
- Residents of rural areas were on average 5 miles from the nearest GP surgery
- College students in remote areas on average face journey times of over an hour and at a median cost of £10 return