‘No plans’ for free subway travel in Glasgow - despite support of SPT and councillors

There are “no plans” to include the Subway in a scheme which will see young people ride buses for free, despite Glasgow councillors backing the bid.

Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), which runs the Subway, had asked for the service to be added into a scheme offering free bus travel for under 22s, which launches in February.

Bosses warned SPT faces losses of £3 million per year as an “unintended consequence” of free bus travel, and urged Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government to extend the scheme.

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They said losses would “have to be made up from other public funds, service cuts or price rises”.

But a spokeswoman for SPT has confirmed it has been told there “are no plans to include the Subway” or Edinburgh’s trams.

Council backs bid

Yesterday, Glasgow councillors backed SPT’s bid to be included and agreed to send a letter supporting the proposal to the Scottish Government.

Councillor Anna Richardson, city convener for sustainability and carbon reduction, said: “It is expected that some of the two million journeys taken per year by under 22s on the Subway will transfer to bus, which will have an impact on revenue.

“If it were to be extended to cover the Subway it would offer our children, families and young people, an even more convenient and integrated transport offering while protecting this revenue stream for SPT.”

Response to SPT

As well as writing to Transport Scotland, in partnership with Transport for Edinburgh, to be included in the free travel scheme, SPT also wrote to finance secretary Kate Forbes to consider the impact when she sets the Scottish Government’s budget on December 9.

The SPT spokeswoman said: “SPT has written to Transport Scotland asking that the under 22s is extended to include the Glasgow Subway.

“However, we have now been advised that there are no plans to include Subway and trams in the scheme.”

Over 60s too

Glasgow’s Labour group deputy leader Eva Murray had asked that over 60s also receive free Subway journeys if the under 22 scheme was extended.

She said: “It’s always been a bit of a contentious issue that those that have a concession pass over 60 only get a discount on the Subway, not free.

“Is this something we’ve taken into consideration if we are looking to provide free travel on the Subway to all younger people?

“I’m just keen that this doesn’t become a young people versus older people debate, especially with Glasgow residents who don’t currently get free.”

The SPT spokeswoman added: “Over 60s currently benefit from discounted travel on the Subway via the local concessions scheme which SPT and the council provide.

“Any extension to make this ‘free’ would require additional funding from the Scottish Government or participating councils.”

Councillor Dr Martin Bartos, the SPT chairman, had said the organisation “strongly supports” the plan to make bus journeys “free at the point of use” for under 22s.

He said: “We believe it to be a positive step towards tackling poverty and reducing inequalities, however we also strongly believe that transport is multi-modal and such schemes should be extended to cover travel on both Glasgow Subway and Edinburgh Trams.”

In the letter to Transport Scotland, SPT said including the Subway in the free travel scheme could potentially cause “funding complexities” but an alternative would be to “fund the acceptance of the under 22s on both systems if included as part of local concessions schemes.”

Transport Scotland responds

A Transport Scotland spokesman said SPT has received Covid-19 support funding for the Subway “from the total light rail support of over £36millon” as well as £246million from the Scottish Government for modernisation.

He added: “The extension of free bus travel to all under 22s will improve access to education, leisure, and work, while supporting the adoption of sustainable travel behaviours early in their lives, particularly as buses provide the widest network of public transport provision in Scotland.

“The new statutory nationwide scheme is for bus travel only in the same way as the existing older and disabled persons free bus scheme. There are separate local concessionary schemes that are run by local authorities or regional transport partnerships that cover other modes of transport. Any decision to extend concessions to these modes rests with them.”

The spokesman added a Fair Fares Review to ensure an “integrated approach to public transport fares” will look “at the range of discounts and concessionary schemes which are available on all modes, and will consider both cost and availability of services.”