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New safety measures

Cash help to persuade more to use public transport

Trams, trains and buses are among those being targeted

New measures have been announced to persuade nervous commuters and shoppers back on to public transport.

The Scottish Government is making £7 million available to help combat fears that buses, trains, trams and taxis are a potential source of COVID-19 infection.

Operators will have access to the Public, School and Community Transport COVID-19 Mitigation Fund to provide more driver screens, sanitisers and air conditioning units.

It will allow them to increase capacity and boost public confidence in using public transport and is available for buses, taxis and private hire vehicles, trams, subway and local ferries and planes that are used for public, school and community transport.

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Public attitude data indicates that concerns about using public transport remain high, though this has decreased compared to previous waves. A quarter of people saying they will make more journeys by public transport now more places are open.

Demand for public transport continues to be significantly lower compared to last year, with usage in the first week of August down by between 50% and 75%. Concessionary bus travel increased by around 5%.

Rail demand continues to be down compared to last year though it was up 15% against the previous week.

Car traffic also remains down on last year, but there continues to be week-on-week growth.

Ferry passenger and vehicle carryings are significantly down on last year, but there was a week-on-week increase in passenger and car numbers. Passenger carryings increased by around 10% on Calmac routes and 30% on Northlink routes against the previous week.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Recent surveys indicate there is still a high degree of anxiety around using public transport due to the risks posed by COVID-19.

“While there is no risk-free solution at this time, I want to do all that we can to help mitigate the risks that do exist on public transport.

“This funding offers public, school and community transport providers the opportunity to install additional measures should they need to.

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“I recognise that many operators and staff have been working tirelessly to create a safer environment for passengers – but some may still need to take additional steps or require funding to do so.

“With more people expected to make journeys over the coming weeks – this is the right time to provide additional support to help mitigate some of the risks posed by COVID-19 on public transport.

“It’s important to stress that COVID-19 does still present a danger and masks are compulsory on public transport unless an exemption applies. Practicing good hand hygiene is also critical in controlling the spread of the virus.

“Due to physical distancing requirements, capacity on our public transport network remains limited. Despite these additional measures to keep people safe, our guidance remains the same.

“Work from home if you can. Walk, wheel and cycle for everyday journeys where possible – and if you do need to use public transport, remember to plan ahead, travelling outside of peak times if you can.

“By following these steps, we can all help manage demand on our public transport network and leave space for people that need it most.”

Full details of the how the new scheme will operate will be published on the Transport Scotland website, with operators and local authorities provided with guidance on how to apply.

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