Protesters demand better public transport as Cop26 delegates get free travel

·4-min read
Campaigners rallied in George Square (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Campaigners rallied in George Square (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

Campaigners have rallied to call for better public transport in Scotland saying the free travel pass given to Cop26 delegates shows the need for a fully integrated system.

Those attending the climate change summit are given a travel pass which can be used on buses, trains and the Glasgow underground for free travel.

While parts of Scottish public transport have smartcard systems, there is no integrated card for all public transport users across the whole network.

A demonstration organised by Friends of the Earth Scotland and Get Glasgow Moving was held in George Square on Wednesday morning.

It comes amid Cop26’s Transport Day, where the summit discusses how to make travel greener.

Ellie Harrison, of Get Glasgow Moving, said the travel pass for Cop26 attendees showed a similar system could be used across Scotland.

She told the PA news agency: “With political will and funding you can do anything.

“It’s disgraceful that Glasgow city council and the Scottish Government have presided over such a diabolical system for so long.

Watch: Extinction Rebellion marches through Glasgow after protesting at JP Morgan Building

“Now, when the eyes of the world are on them, they’ve pulled this out the bag to say, ‘we’ve got an integrated public transport system'”.

The Scottish Government recently extended free bus travel to everyone under the age of 22 and is currently commissioning a “fair fares review” which will take an integrated approach to public transport.

Ms Harrison said: “We don’t need any more reviews, we’ve been banging on about this for years, what we need is action.”

Attendees at Cop26 are given a free travel pass (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
Attendees at Cop26 are given a free travel pass (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

Gavin Thomson, a transport campaigner with Friends of the Earth Scotland, said delegates coming to Scotland would be “shocked at how disjointed our public transport system is”.

He said: “We’ve been told for years it’s too difficult to implement a card like the one the delegates have.”

Separately, the Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, joined councillors in Glasgow to back plans for a publicly-controlled bus network in the city.

He said: “We cannot achieve net-zero with rocketing fares on public transport and bus services in decline.

“It is time for transformational change and that is exactly what Labour’s local leaders in Strathclyde are promising.

“To help people choose the bus, Labour Councils will use new Transport Act powers to bring Strathclyde’s bus network under democratic control.

Watch: Here’s how young climate activists want other youth to take action

“By putting passengers before profit, we believe we can secure better, more affordable services for Greater Glasgow and the West.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said that the Scottish Government “is taking forward a comprehensive suite of measures to promote more sustainable, affordable public transport journeys and deprioritise car use”.

He stated: “We are committing over £500 million on bus priority infrastructure, have landmark investment in active travel of at least £320 million or 10% of the transport budget by 2024-25 and are introducing free bus travel for those under 22 years of age.

“Transport Scotland is also continuing to work on the case for a Glasgow Metro as part of Strategic Transport Projects Review 2, which will be published in draft for statutory consultation this winter.

A protest took place outside the JP Morgan office (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)
A protest took place outside the JP Morgan office (Andrew Milligan/PA) (PA Wire)

“We know that concessions on transport will only be impactful if our transport services are accessible and connected and we are working across Scottish Government and with our partners to ensure connectivity, affordability and accessibility continue to be at the forefront of our transport system.

“We are undertaking a Fair Fares Review to ensure a sustainable and integrated approach to public transport fares. Looking at the range of discounts and concessionary schemes available on all modes including bus, rail and ferry and will consider options against a background where the costs of car travel are declining and public transport costs are increasing.”

He also said that smart ticketing measures for local transport authorities had been strengthened as part of the Transport (Scotland) Act.

Another protest took place outside the JP Morgan offices in Glasgow on Wednesday, with Extinction Rebellion saying it was concluding a 24-hour vigil on Waterloo Street.

The group, which has held several protests outside the offices during Cop26, said it wants to draw attention to the company’s investments in fossil fuels.

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