February 22 2023

  • If Scotland doesn’t switch car journeys to bus and coach, net zero CO2 targets won’t be met
  • The Scottish Government is being urged to introduce a comprehensive package of measures to increase attractiveness of bus and coach
  • Investing in net zero also brings broader economic, social and health reward worth billions.

A new WPI Economics report, commissioned by the CPT, shows how major benefits could be reaped by levelling the playing field between private motoring and public transport in Scotland.

This follows on from a study last year which showed that attracting drivers to switch some journeys to bus or coach was necessary to meet net zero targets. This would produce significant economic, social and health benefits and be achievable given people’s support for tackling climate change.

With a 70-year decline in bus travel, the report makes clear that focusing on one policy alone won’t get the job done. For example, it shows how increasing motoring costs in isolation would hit those who don’t have any other option to use their cars, particularly lower earners. Instead, making bus travel free across Scotland would cost millions without having a significant impact on people’s travel choices

The report calls for a realistic, fair and politically achievable package of policies to encourage people to switch two car journeys a month to bus or coach. This will ensure a reduction in emissions of 1.1 million tons of CO2, equivalent to the total transport emissions in Aberdeen.

As well as keeping us on the path to net zero, moving more people onto bus and coach has the potential to unlock huge benefits:

  • £3.4bn of socioeconomic benefits from changes in travel patterns – equivalent to the total GDP of Dundee in 2019.
  • £800k in air quality benefits from reduced congestion – enough to pay the wages of nearly 22 nurses for one year.
  • 3000 new jobs and £180m additional GDP through better connectivity to job and services.

Matthew Oakley, Director at WPI Economics said: “A holistic policy package that combines several, sensible interventions will help to make buses and coaches a more regular choice.

“Without a significant step change in government policy, current decarbonisation targets will not be met.”

Paul White, Director at CPT Scotland which commissioned the report said, “Without long-term investment in the funding of services and infrastructure to make bus and coach journeys more attractive for passengers, Scotland will not be able to effectively contribute to Scotland’s 2045 Net Zero target.”

“This is why decision-makers in Scotland should get on board with bus policy packages because they are fair and achievable measures to slash carbon, generate new tax revenue, create more jobs and make people healthier.”

To go the full distance of meeting decarbonisation targets, bus packages across Scotland must cover three key policy areas, with license to adapt according to local needs:

  • Investment in bus services and infrastructure to increase attractiveness of the bus network
  • Subsidising bus fares
  • Charging motorists to drive in congested urban areas

An example comprehensive policy ticket would be to combine £118m per year investment in bus services with a £2 fare cap and a congestion charge in urban local authorities. This could get Scotland three quarters of the way to its net zero goal – while making buses faster, cheaper and more convenient.

If picked up by decision makers, these policies could reverse a passenger decline per decade of 25% over the past decade, increasing bus patronage by 25% per decade up to 2050.

Combining measures across the three policy areas could help British cities overtake their European counterparts in productivity. Their failure to do so is caused by severe congestion in urban areas from cars that costs the UK economy £23 billion a year.


Notes to editors

  • CPT Scotland is the national trade body for bus and coach operators in Scotland.
  • The report can be downloaded in full here: bit.ly/WPICPTScotland