Bus to Play Key Role in Scotland's Transport Mix
Mr Mackay was addressing the UK Bus Summit in London - the first meeting of its kind in 15 years.
The Scottish Government recently confirmed investment worth £414 million for nationwide free bus travel for the over 60s and people with disabilities which will benefit 1.2 million national entitlement card holders over the next two years.
Today Mr Mackay set out more details of how Transport Scotland, the industry and local authorities can build on this momentum:
- Strengthen relations with local authorities, regional transport partnerships and operators to identify problems and areas of good practice.
- Review and improve the Bus Investment Fund, which provides funding for 30 projects.
- Successor to the Scottish Green Bus Fund, taking account of developments in the market and new technology to cut carbon emissions and improve air quality.
- Looking at new incentives for green buses (including through BSOG).
- Act on findings from current research into the state of the community transport sector and engage with disabled people to help solve issues raised at the forthcoming Transport Accessibility Summit.
- Drive forward smart and integrated ticketing, working with rail, ferry, bus and other transport providers.
Mr Mackay said:
"Around 423 million journeys are made using buses in Scotland every year. We’ve already provided £13 million to secure 276 new low carbon vehicles for the Scottish bus fleet - but we can and must do more. We are currently reviewing how we support more green buses, taking account of market developments and new technology since the Green Bus Fund was introduced, and looking at further incentives.
"We also need to improve accessibility and tackle inequality and exclusion. Through our Mobility and Access Committee we’re working with operators and local authorities to improve the customer experience for disabled people, using the opportunities presented by new technology to provide better, easier to use information on services.
"Getting the design and delivery of services right at local level is key. Our Community Empowerment Bill aims to strengthen the community planning process and give local communities new powers to challenge how public services are delivered. This year we'll amend the process for registering bus services, creating space for operators and local authorities to have more constructive dialogue when services change.
"The mixed model of market driven services, appropriately regulated and supported by a mixture of central and local funding, is not fundamentally broken - services have held up well during tough economic times. But there are challenges which better bus services could help us address – in terms of environmental quality, economic development and combatting exclusion and inequality. Critical to all of this is getting the right mix of private sector, voluntary sector and local and central government action. And good engagement and partnership between us all."