The Scottish government is providing £10m for the initiative. At the same time, it has improved the grant thresholds for operators wanting to take advantage of the £8.8m Bus Emissions Abatement Retrofit scheme, which targets mid-life vehicles.
The new infrastructure fund will help areas of Scotland with the highest concentration of congestion to implement temporary measures, including bus lanes or gates, which make bus journeys quicker and more reliable. In turn, the government sees this as improving the attractiveness of bus travel by incentivising bus trips ahead of private vehicle journeys. In conjunction with similar active travel measures, it will also help to protect air quality in our city centres, it said.
Cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity Michael Matheson said: “The bus sector is responding to not only increased operating costs during Covid-19, but also increasing congestion as restrictions are eased which will negatively impact on bus journey times. I hope these steps will be welcomed in conjunction with the action we have already taken to maintain the value of Bus Service Operator Grants and concessionary travel payments at pre-crisis levels. This is in addition to the £46.7 million emergency funding package we’re providing to ramp up services as the lockdown eases and demand picks up.
“By providing this support for bus priority infrastructure, we’re directly helping bus passengers who we know typically have fewer alternative travel options – helping to improve journey times on congested routes.
“With capacity on buses reduced due to physical distancing, it’s important we leave space for those that need it most. While this step will make bus journey times faster on pinch points, I would continue to ask people to work from home and stay local if they can. Walk, wheel or cycle where possible and plan ahead if using public transport to help manage demand. Let’s continue thinking about how and when we travel so that we can keep Scotland moving.”
Paul White, director for CPT in Scotland said: “Bus is a key element of the sustainable and active travel hierarchy, providing three quarters of all public transport trips. As such, CPT welcomes this investment to tackle congestion and to further improve the emissions profile of the Scottish bus fleet. This work will assist in the provision of a reliable, green alternative to car use as people increasingly look to travel.
“Covid-19 travel restrictions demonstrated the potential journey time and reliability improvements possible if bus is freed from car traffic. It is critical we lock in these benefits and the resultant improvements in air quality.”