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Every single day millions of people in Scotland rely on buses to help them live their lives – to get them to school, to work, to the shops, for health appointments and for leisure trips. Buses are also often an essential for those with low incomes and mobility issues.

There are more bus journeys each year in Scotland than every other mode of public transport combined and one full bus can replace 75 car trips, reducing the number of vehicles on the road and leading to less congestion and better air quality.

Buses make a positive contribution to the economy, the environment and most importantly, to people. However, despite the many benefits buses deliver, and the continuing hard work and investment from bus operators, the number of bus journeys in Scotland has fallen.

Scottish bus operators, through our trade association the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), have joined together to look at recent patronage trends and to identify ways to ensure that Scots continue to have access to a convenient, dependable and affordable network of bus services.

We commissioned an independent report – 'Trends in Scottish Bus Patronage' - to assess the many positives buses can bring and the real reasons less people have been using them, so that we can find a way forward that helps buses achieve their potential.

Allowing buses to flourish for the benefit of all will require support from politicians and passengers. We all need to work together to take bus travel in the right direction.

Put simply, we need everyone to get on board with bus!

Read the full report

Why get on board with bus?

Buses connect people

Bus services provide vital links between people in Scotland and their families and friends as well as connecting us with employment, education, health and leisure facilities.

  • A third of people in Scotland use a bus at least once a week
  • 21% of people rely on the bus to get to school
  • 1 in 10 people rely on the bus to get to work.
  • Overall passenger satisfaction in Scotland's buses remains high, averaging 91% across the country.

Buses benefit society

You don't have to be a passenger to benefit from the bus. A well supported bus network contributes to policy areas beyond transport. Buses can facilitate better air quality, health and social inclusion, for example.

  • Every £1 invested in local bus services generates up to £8 in wider social, economic and environmental benefits.

Buses boost the economy

Buses are the primary mode of commuting for 1 in 10 Scots and are the main mode of transport for city centre retail trips. Bus operators are also large local employers. Supporting bus means not only helping more people get to work, it means creating more jobs.

  • Buses are the main mode of transport for people travelling to city centres with bus passengers responsible for 29% of all city centre spending.
  • The bus industry generates £5.4bn a year for the Scottish economy
  • Buses support 260,000 Scottish jobs, supporting families and livelihoods across the country
Why have fewer people been getting on board?

Bus use has fallen across the UK in recent years but thanks to this report, we now better understand the reasons for that.

The reality is that the actions bus operators have taken to deliver customer improvements have resulted in more passenger journeys. However, this has been counteracted by wider societal issues which have impacted on bus use, including growing car ownership, changing shopping habits and the ever-growing problem of traffic congestion which leads to longer bus journeys and higher fares.

This report shows there are a lot of factors that impact upon bus use.

  • Car ownership and use continues to rise and has reduced bus journeys by almost 15million in the past 4 years. Most Local Authorities have not yet taken action to limit car access to city centres or invested in bus priority measures resulting in buses being caught in congestion.
  • Online shopping has risen hugely in recent years. This means fewer people are travelling to high streets and shopping centres. This trend has cut bus journeys by 7million over four years. Additionally the increased number of vans delivering our online orders contributes to congestion.
  • Bus fares in Scotland are still the lowest in the UK but have risen faster than inflation. However, bus company operating costs have risen at twice that rate, demonstrating that operators have absorbed many costs. Additionally, there has been a significant reduction in government expenditure during this time. The result is that higher fares have caused a 4million drop in bus journeys in Scotland since 2011/12.
  • Fares are also affected by traffic congestion. Congestion has increased average bus journey times by 10% over the last decade, leading to higher fares and undermining the attractiveness of the bus. Longer journey times have turned almost 6 million people off bus journeys in the past four years

Other important considerations..........

  • Flexible working and home working has risen, which means fewer people are travelling by bus to a workplace
  • There has been significantly higher investment in other transport modes which are used by less people. For example, Scottish Government support for rail per passenger trip is roughly ten times that for each bus passenger.
  • Additional options for passengers such as Borders Railway and Edinburgh Trams have impacted demand for bus services along those corridors.

As the KPMG report makes clear, the trends behind patronage decline in Scotland are largely outwith bus operators' control. However, we continue to work hard and to invest to deliver a modern, green, safe and reliable network of bus services for Scotland's passengers.

  • Bus operators in Scotland have invested over £200m in fleets and service improvements over the last five years.
  • 78% of buses are fitted with CCTV to make passengers feel safe.
  • 86% of buses are fitted with automatic vehicle location to enable passengers to view real time information at bus stops, on their phones and online.
  • 84% of buses are fitted with smartcard readers
  • Bus operators have instigated smart and integrated ticketing schemes in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee to allow passengers to access all local bus services with one smartcard. These schemes will be extended to include rail and ferry over time.
  • Contactless payment is now available and will be expanded across Scotland over the next couple of years

Our investment in bus quality measures has resulted in 2 million more passenger journeys but there are many external factors we can't control that are decreasing patronage in larger numbers.


The KPMG Report 'Trends in Scottish Bus Patronage' concludes that there are three short term actions to help move the dial back to patronage growth:

  • Stronger partnerships between bus operators, transport authorities and other stakeholders.
  • Investment in infrastructure and traffic management measures to help tackle congestion.
  • Continued focus on improving the convenience, dependability and value of bus travel.

Contact your local decision makers

The best way to focus our politicians on improving bus services is to get in touch through letters, email or social media and ask them what practical measures they are taking to tackle congestion, introduce probus policies and support bus services in your area.

Make more sustainable travel choices

The bus is not the answer for every journey but neither is the car. Switching from car to bus for just one journey a month would mean one billion fewer car journeys on the UK's roads and would save 2 million tonnes of CO2 every year.



  • 76% of all public transport trips in Scotland are made on buses
  • Overall satisfaction ratings for Scottish bus operators involved in the most recent transport Focus survey top 90% - higher than the average scores in England.
  • Bus fares in Scotland are lower than the UK average and are increasing at a much lower rate.
  • 9 out of 10 Scottish bus services are run on a commercial basis by operators without funding from taxpayers
  • Scotland's bus fleet is safe, accessible and environmentally friendly.


Myth 1: Bus operators make huge profits and do not invest in improving their services

Reality: Bus operators have faced the same tough economic climate as other public and private sector business and have had to take difficult decisions accordingly. The industry's profit margins are lower than the UK company average

  • Profits in the UK bus industry are on average 7%, despite independent research indicating a margin closer to 11% is required to meet financial obligations.
  • Operators have a clear record of significant reinvestment. The Scottish bus industry has invested over £200m in new vehicles over the last five years.


Myth 2: Buses are responsible for poor air quality

Reality: Buses offer the best combination of energy efficiency and space consumption in urban streets and are a huge part of the solution to improving air quality for all.

  • Just 5% of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to road transport come from buses and coaches. In contrast, 60% comes from cars.
  • One double-deck bus can take 75 cars off the road, giving a potential annual carbon saving of 67,200km.


Myth 3: Handing control to local authorities would improve services and increase passenger numbers

Reality: The challenges outlined in this report would still exist regardless of who controls our bus networks. The factors that have impacted lower passenger numbers are largely outwith the control of operators, showing clearly that it is practical, not structural change that is needed to allow bus services to flourish.

  • Last year commercial bus mileage grew by 1% while subsidised mileage (bus routes funded by local authorities) fell by 15%.
  • Under-resourced local authorities are already failing to meet current bus service registration requirements – are they equipped to run entire networks?
  • Public sector control would not safeguard services. Given the worsening budget constraints faced by local authorities it is clear that the most efficient use of their scarce resource is to work in partnership with operators to access their business and operational expertise.


Myth 4: Fares are too high

Reality: Local bus fares in Scotland are the lowest in the UK and are increasing at a significantly slower rate.

  • Bus operating costs in Scotland have increased by 15% over the last 5 years. Fares have increased at roughly half that rate over the same period, showing that bus operators have protected passengers as much as possible.
  • The overall cost of owning, running and maintaining a private car remains high – operators need Scotland's politicians to make brave decisions about car parking cost and availability in towns and cities to encourage greater use of public transport.


Myth 5: The bus industry is reliant on public sector support

Reality: Buses deliver 75% of public transport journeys in Scotland yet receive a disproportionate amount of public investment.

  • 90% of bus services in Scotland towns and cities are commercially operated.
  • The current subsidy per rail passenger is ten times greater than the subsidy per bus passenger. In 2015/16 expenditure on roads totalled £1,095 million, expenditure on rail £621 million, expenditure on buses £112million.
  • The National Concessionary Travel Scheme is not a subsidy to bus operators; it is reimbursement for providing providing travel free of charge to concessionary passengers. Analysis shows that every £1 spent on the scheme generates at least £2.87 in benefits.
  • Routes supported by local authorities are not a subsidy to operators – payments are in return for delivering a service in the same way the local councils pay other businesses to deliver services and contracts on their behalf.


Myth 6: Bus priority measures are anti-car and harm town centres

Reality: Well designed bus priority schemes help reduce delay and congestion for all road users, thereby reducing pollution and improving air quality.

  • 30% of high-street shoppers travel by bus and 29% of all city centre spending is by bus users with an average spend of £54 per trip.
  • Bus priority measures can typically generate £3.32 of benefits for every £1 invested in them by government.
  • Congestion in urban areas costs UK plc at least £11 billion a year.
  • A 10% reduction in bus journey times across the UK would mean 50,000 more people in work.


Myth 7: The bus is not for me.

Reality: The bus is for everyone!

  • The bus is one of a number of travel choices. It may not be suitable for every journey but if UK drivers switched just one car journey to bus or coach in 25, or one a month, it would mean one billion fewer car journeys and a saving of 2m tonnes of CO2.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) is the trade association for the bus and coach industries. As the recognised voice of road based passenger transport, CPT works in partnership with local and national government and other key stakeholders to create a policy environment that supports Scotland's bus and coach operators and allows for the delivery of a comprehensive and modern public transport network.

The 'Get On Board With Bus' campaign is backed by Scottish bus operators First Bus, Lothian Buses, McGills, Stagecoach, West Coast Motors, Whitelaws and Xplore Dundee.

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Connecting Scotland