Eva Murray, deputy leader of the Labour Group at Glasgow City Council, said: “Private bus companies have had their chance, it’s not working.”
She was responding to a report from former UN special rapporteur and human rights expert Philip Alston, which argued that all bus services in the UK should be taken back into public control.
The report said privatisation had delivered “expensive, unreliable and dysfunctional” services.
And it found failures have “restricted access to work, education, healthcare and food”, with the impact on people with low incomes “especially severe”.
Councillor Murray said it was time to “bring buses back into public control” and “put “the needs of people over that of profit”.
That was disputed by First Bus however, who said they ran services in the city at a loss and were better placed than the public sector to respond to changing travel habits and invest in green transport.
Campaign group Get Glasgow Moving has been calling for public control and hopes the report’s findings will see the issue “taken more seriously”.
Mr Alston and colleagues, Bassam Khawaja and Rebecca Riddell, at New York University’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice found privatised services in the UK are “grossly inadequate”.
They called on governments to adopt public control of bus transport “as the default system” and provide financial support to councils.
Councillor Murray said: “In Glasgow we should be thinking outside of the box, challenging the Scottish Government to be more ambitious when it comes to transport and pushing them to give local government more power to make decisions.”
Ellie Harrison, from Get Glasgow Moving, added: “It’s amazing for us as a volunteer-run campaign group to have someone of his stature shining a light on the world stage.”
A re-regulated service planned by a transport authority, like SPT in Glasgow, would “meet the needs of the people who live in the region”, she said.
“It’s a much more efficient use of public money to run the services directly.”
She said deregulation had been “completely mad” but Scotland “has had power over its bus network since devolution in 1999” and has done “absolutely nothing to undo the damage”.
New powers for public control and ownership in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 are “yet to be enacted or have any support of funding attached”.
Ms Harrison added a £500m Bus Partnership Fund, launched by the Scottish Government, is “ill-conceived” and forcing councils into ‘Bus Service Improvement Partnerships’ which “lock us into this broken privatised system for years to come”.
A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said the £500m for bus priority infrastructure “aims to make bus trips faster and more attractive to passengers”.
More than £280m has been provided to maintain services during the pandemic and free bus travel is being extended to under 22s, she added.
“The Transport Act offers an ambitious new model for bus services,” the spokeswoman said.
“It provides local authorities with options to influence and improve services in their area, ensuring that there are sustainable bus networks across Scotland.”
Graeme Macfarlan, commercial director for First Glasgow, said: “Serving our communities is at the heart of our decision-making – not profit.
“We continue to operate routes across Glasgow at a loss in order to maintain the integrity of the entire bus network.”
He said performance is under constant review but congestion and delays, which are “outside of bus operators’s control”, can be a barrier.
Mr Macfarlan added the private sector is “much better placed” to access the finance required for low or zero emission vehicles while “also being fully agile to respond to changing travel habits”.
Paul White, director at the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) Scotland, believes the report does not “provide a full or fair picture of bus operation in Scotland”.
“There are myriad factors that impact upon bus services and fares beyond who owns or operates the vehicles. Among these are ever worsening congestion, a lack of bus priority measures and changing travel needs.”
He said bus operators are working with the Scottish Government to improve services.