We want public transport to be cheaper than taking the car.
We need to see the Polluter Pays Principle implemented for Scottish transport.
Public transport should be less expensive than taking the car. Despite frequent protests from the motoring lobby that car users are being priced off the road, it is in fact public transport users who have seen massive real term fare increases over the past fifteen years. While motoring costs have fallen in real terms since 1999 – down by 6% – rail users have seen real term price increases of 18% while bus users have had to absorb a 26% increase. Given that those in the lowest income brackets rely disproportionately on public transport, these price trends are socially regressive, as well as being environmentally unsustainable.
One way of reducing public transport fares would be to see governments invest at the levels seen across the Continent; the other is for roads users to pay the right prices. Most cars, lorries or air transport currently do not pay for their full external costs – environmental (e.g. climate change, air and noise pollution), social (e.g. community severance, road crashes), or economic (e.g. congestion, road damage). The London congestion charge is the outstanding example of how better price signals can improve conditions for everyone – and it is long overdue for the leadership shown there to be replicated in Scotland.
Develop road traffic demand management options for Scotland’s four major cities
Scottish Ministers should instruct Transport Scotland to work in conjunction with the relevant local authorities and Regional Transport Partnerships to develop road traffic demand management options for Scotland’s four major cities (e.g. private non-residential parking levies, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, road pricing) with funds raised to be reinvested in local transport improvements. This would not only reduce transport externalities, but would improve public health and quality of life in our cities, provide economic benefits, help contribute to national climate targets, and raise revenue for infrastructure improvements. Similar systems have been proven to work: for example, Nottingham has seen significant modal shift to public transport, walking and cycling; a 33% reduction in carbon emissions; and has raised £53 million of revenue since introducing a Workplace Parking Levy in 2012.
Get the prices right
Transport Scotland needs to start including cost externalities of all transport modes in their annual statistics so that policy decisions can be made based on the true costs to society. While research has previously been carried out into quantifying the external costs, no figures are produced on a regular basis to track these costs and whether they are being adequately covered by charges to users. These costs are not theoretical – they are paid by everyone in Scotland, whether they travel or not. But if they are not included in the cost of transport it means transport users are not making their decisions based on accurate information.