Scottish Government opens consultation on free bus travel for young people
The Scottish Government has launched its consultation on the plan to deliver free bus travel for all under 19s.
The move, which was part of the budget deal with the Scottish Greens agreed earlier this year, was originally due to begin in January 2021.
The initiative was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic but is expected to come into effect in late 2021, with legislation anticipated early in the new year.
Around 770,000 young people will benefit from the scheme.
The government is also proposing free bus travel for people accompanying disabled children under five. Under 5s are already eligible for free travel.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “I’m confident that it will support the independence of young people and encourage a greater, long term shift to more sustainable travel – largely by embedding the use of public transport in people’s behaviour from an early age.
“To respond to the climate emergency, we need a shift away from private vehicle use towards more sustainable public transport. I’m confident this step could also help encourage modal shift in how young people get around – improving air quality in our towns and cities by reducing the number of car journeys made either by them or their family, friends, or carers.”
Bus operators will be reimbursed by the government under the proposal, taking a similar approach to the scheme providing concessionary travel for over 60s.
Five to 18-year-olds would be expected to present a card on boarding a bus to prove eligibility.
The Scottish Greens have called for the scheme to be extended to all people under 25.
Co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “If it can’t be done in the first few months of next year due to COVID, then we must legislate before the election to place a duty on ministers not only to meet but exceed what they have already agreed to, by extending free bus travel up to the age of 25.
“Make no mistake, free bus travel for young people is a massive step to a fairer and greener Scotland – it means students will save hundreds of pounds in travelling to their college course, it means families living in poverty can plan a day trip. It means a whole generation can grow up seeing public transport as their option of choice.”
The closing date for the consultation is 7 December 2020.