Issue date: 28 March 2019
Many people in our communities are cut off from opportunities and essential services, including education, work and healthcare because of the costs of car ownership and the cost and availability of public transport alternatives. Sometimes referred to as Transport Poverty, the implications are far reaching but can include many people being forced to choose between owning a car they perhaps cannot afford or being unable to access key public services and other facilities, leading to social isolation and a lack of opportunity.
Although car ownership levels in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are high compared to the rest of Scotland, there are still 31% of households in Aberdeen City and 14% of households in Aberdeenshire that do not have access to a car or van, compared to a Scottish average of 31%. Even in car-owning households, there is often one partner or dependents who don’t have access to that vehicle. These figures alone do not reflect the reality for many people on low incomes that they are forced to make the choice between car ownership or not being able to access work, education or essential services.
In 2016 Sustrans published a report on Transport Poverty in Scotland. This report presented the findings of research undertaken to examine the concept of transport poverty in Scotland and brought together data on three key contributing factors of car availability, household income and access to key services using public transport in order to assess areas which are most at risk. A map of their findings is provided in Appendix A.
It is an issue that affects people in both urban and rural areas, however in the context of the north east, the Sustrans analysis shows that areas along the north coast of the region are at particularly high risk of transport poverty, a finding that is supported by the priorities identified in the Aberdeenshire Local Outcome Improvement Plan.
Young people across the region can also be particularly affected by the cost of transport if they are in full time education, training, volunteering, apprenticeships or on low incomes.
There are significant challenges that both the public sector and bus operators face in running bus services, particularly in rural areas but also in urban areas, with significant levels of support on particular routes and times of day often required. Demand responsive and community transport provision is often used to fill some of the gaps in the provision of scheduled services however these services can often have eligibility criteria and therefore not open to everyone to use.
Public consultation has also highlighted the perceived high cost of public transport as a key issue for the region. There is evidence to suggest that although bus fares in Aberdeen City have historically been higher than other Scottish Cities, the gap has been narrowing in recent years with other Scottish Cities seeing a significant rise in ticket price.
As of February 2019, the cost of a monthly ticket across the four Scottish cities are as follows:
|Operator & City||Shop/On bus||Online/ Mobile / DD|
|National Express Dundee||£50.00||£48.00|
As the table shows, there are discounts to be obtained from purchasing tickets online or via a mobile, an option that is not always available to everyone. Greater savings can also be made by purchasing longer period passes (up to a year) however the up-front costs of these are often prohibitive to those on low incomes.
There is assistance in the cost of bus travel for many people through the Concessionary Card which provides free bus travel for disabled people and for all those over the age of 60. The Young Scot National Entitlement Card also gives travel discounts to 16-18 year olds, or full time volunteers under the age of 26.
The cost of bus fares and the limitations of the Young Scot National Entitlement Card were highlighted in a recent report from the Scottish Youth Parliament “All Aboard – Young People’s views and experiences of public transport in Scotland”. This report identifies reducing fares as one of three key priorities for their campaign.
References / Further Information
Transport Poverty in Scotland, Sustrans, August 2016, https://www.sustrans.org.uk/sites/default/files/file_content_type/transport_poverty_in_scotland_report.pdf
All Aboard: Young People’s Views on Public Transport in Scotland, Scottish Youth Parliament, January 2019 https://www.syp.org.uk/public_transport_campaign