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Rights-based approach to public transport needed to help those living in poverty

Rights-based approach to public transport needed to help those living in poverty

Buses in Glasgow - Image credit: Chris DiGiamo via Flickr

Scotland’s public transport must be rights based and affordable to meet the needs of those living in poverty, according to the Poverty and Inequality Commission.

The commission’s working group on public transport found that people on low incomes are more likely to use public transport, but the cost can put significant pressures on household finances.

It also found that poor transport services can leave people isolated and cut off, with those living in rural areas as well as women with small children and disabled people particularly affected.

The commission heard examples from people with lived experience of poverty where lack of affordable, accessible and reliable transport restricted their ability to access work and get to doctor’s appointments.

Following its investigation, which included workshops in Glasgow and Lairg with groups of people with experience of living in poverty, held with the aid of the Poverty Alliance, Oxfam and HUG, as well as a review of written evidence and feedback from individuals and groups, the working group has come up with 13 recommendations for change.

The report recommends that the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland take a rights-based approach to transport as a necessary requirement of meeting other human rights such as the right to education, health and work and that the recently launched national taskforce on human rights leadership should consider how transport might fit with the recommendations it is taking forward.

It also suggested that the new statutory Poverty and Inequality Commission, to be set up this summer, should undertake work to explore how a minimum transport standard might be defined for Scotland.

Other recommendations included considering widening concessionary schemes to make transport more affordable, looking at accountability and levers to involve users with particular needs in designing the system, a system of delay compensation for buses and ferries as well as trains, and for the Scottish Government, the NHS and COSLA to work together to ensure people can access NHS services and that transport is integrated with community planning around housing, education, health, employment and leisure services.

Commenting on the report, the commission’s deputy chair, Kaliani Lyle, said: “For too many people unaffordable and unreliable public transport is locking them into poverty. 

“We heard about feelings of isolation from those without easy access to public transport, the anxiety of unreliable networks and high levels of stress that stems from high transport costs putting pressure on already stretched budgets. 

“The commission’s recommendations set out actions that must be taken if transport is to fulfil its potential to release people from the grip of poverty, enabling people to access employment and education and improving quality of life for those on low incomes.”

She added: “While significant amounts of money are invested in public transport, those on the lowest incomes, particularly women, disabled people and those in rural areas, often see little benefit. 

“A transport network that proceeds from a rights-based starting point will go a long way to address this.”

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