Scottish Government transport policy under fire as new figures show car use up and bus use down

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 28 February 2018 in News

New figures show car traffic increased by two per cent in 2016, and increased by 5.3 per cent between 2011-12 and 2016-17

Image credit: PA

The Scottish Government’s transport policy has come under fire from environmental groups following new figures showing rising car use and falling numbers of bus passengers last year.

Ministers have identified private cars as a major cause of air pollution, which currently exceeds European legal limits in several parts of Scotland, as well as a contributor towards climate change.

But new figures show car traffic increased by two per cent in 2016, and increased by 5.3 per cent between 2011-12 and 2016-17.

Transport Scotland statistics show 2.9 million motor vehicles were licensed in Scotland in 2016, rising to its highest ever level. The number of licensed vehicles was 14 per cent higher than in 2006, up from 0.9 million in 1964.

Overall there was a one per cent increase in new vehicle registrations in 2016 compared to 2015.

Meanwhile just 31 per cent of journeys to work were made by active travel or public transport, the same level seen in 2004. Just four per cent of journeys to work were made by bike.

However train use was up 1.1 per cent last year.

The figures show a 2.9 per cent increase in cycling last year, with the Scottish Government aiming for ten per cent of every day journeys in Scotland to be taken by bike by 2020.

Emilia Hanna, air pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “The statistics show that even though many people cannot drive or do not have access to a car in Scotland, cars are choking our transport networks and are poisoning our air with toxic pollution. The dominance of the car creates deadly air pollution, climate change emissions, congestion and urban sprawl. The lack of affordable sustainable transport options creates a further disadvantage for people living in poverty.

“The situation for buses is even worse than last year’s gloomy figures, with passenger numbers dropping and fleet sizes shrinking even more rapidly. Buses are an essential part of the solution to our air pollution crisis, with one bus taking up to 75 cars off the road, and yet the sector has seen a 10 per cent drop in passengers in just the last 5 years. The upcoming Transport Bill must make it possible for local transport authorities to have greater control over bus operations so that buses can play their vital role in reducing air pollution and climate emissions.

“We need less reliance on cars, if we are to have create cleaner air, lower climate emissions, less congestion and a fairer transport system. The Scottish Government and local councils must make it easier for more of us to walk, cycle, and use public transport. The Scottish Government and local councils must invest at least 10 per cent of transport budgets into walking and cycling, and look again at congestion charging and workplace parking levies.”

In total there were 2.9 million vehicles registered for road use in 2016. Of those, 83 per cent were cars, ten per cent were light goods vehicles, two per cent were motorcycles, two per cent were for agriculture and three per cent were classified as ‘other’.

Scottish Green MSP John Finnie said: “What’s made clear by these statistics is the Scottish Government’s continued emphasis on promoting private car use at the expense of public transport, especially buses. The steady decline in bus use throughout Scotland is hardly surprising, given how many of us have come to expect long waits for delayed and non-existent buses and how poorly services here compare with other parts of Europe. That’s why we’ll continue to campaign for local public ownership of buses and to stop companies cherry-picking profitable routes and leaving communities stranded.

“The figures, that show a 22 per cent rise in air travel, also make a mockery of Ryanair’s claim that they’ve scrapped routes, and potentially jobs, from Glasgow Airport just to move them 50 miles along the road to Edinburgh Airport because the government won’t cut air passenger duty. These statistics prove that the aviation industry is the mode of transport that least needs a tax cut.”

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