Bus Partnership Fund

Investing in bus priority infrastructure, to reduce the negative impacts of congestion on bus services.

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Overview

As part of its response to the climate emergency, the Scottish Government committed to providing a long-term investment of over £500m to deliver targeted bus priority measures on local and trunk roads. This is intended to reduce the negative impacts of congestion on bus services and address the decline in bus patronage. The investment takes the form of the Bus Partnership Fund, together with the roll-out of infrastructure for the trunk road network.

The Bus Partnership Fund will complement the powers in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, enabling local authorities to work in partnership with bus operators, to develop and deliver ambitious schemes that incorporate bus priority measures. The Fund will focus on the evidence of how bus services will be improved by addressing congestion, but the partnership approach is also expected to leverage other bus service improvements to help tackle the climate emergency, reduce private car use and increase bus patronage.

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Bus Partnership Fund video transcript

Cabinet Secretary for Transport Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson addresses the Bus Partnership Fund Conference:

Good morning everyone, and it's a pleasure to join you at what is the first in a series of events related to our Bus Partnership Fund. I'm very grateful to those who have helped to organise today's event, in particular the staff at Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

I'm very conscious that the last year has been a challenging year for those right across the bus sector, and I'm grateful for the significant effort that has been made by all of those within the bus sector in Scotland, and those within our local authorities, who have helped to ensure that bus connectivity has been maintained during the course of the pandemic.

But I also want to use this opportunity to challenge us to consider what we can do in moving forward, and ensuring that we take action to improve bus connectivity and bus prioritisation across our towns and cities in Scotland.

In our Programme for Government, which was published in September, we honoured the commitment we made in 2019 to long-term capital investment of over £500 million for bus priority measures, to tackle the negative impacts of congestion on bus services.

Transport Scotland temporarily paused work on the Bus Partnership Fund last year due to the ongoing pandemic, however in July I announced the Bus Priority Rapid Deployment Fund, which has supported local authorities in recent months to respond to congestion, with interventions such as temporary bus lanes and gates. This fund made awards to 18 local authorities to deliver over 60 temporary bus priority projects across the country.

Although the rapid deployment fund was for short-term measures, it presented an opportunity for local authorities to test interventions as they develop plans for long-term investment in bus priority - to lock in benefits for bus passengers and the environment.

I was then delighted to launch the Bus Partnership Fund on the 9th of November last year, sending a clear signal that we were looking towards the future. Together with our unprecedented investment in active travel, this long-term funding commitment is aimed at encouraging a transition away from single occupancy car use to more sustainable travel, linking bus and other public transport modes to walking, cycling and wheeling.

That strategic approach is going to be all important as we move forward with our Bus Partnership Fund. In February last year I published our second National Transport Strategy, setting out how we want to deliver an accessible, modern transport system which will protect our climate and improve the lives of the people of Scotland over the course of the next 20 years.

Despite the disruption of the pandemic, the priorities of the National Transport Strategy remain relevant today and we continue to move it forward. I'm pleased to say we published the first annual delivery plan just before Christmas. The strategy is clear that future transport investment decisions will continue to prioritise the sustainable travel hierarchy.

This approach to investment is crucial in ensuring that transport plays its part in ensuring that we deliver on our ambitious climate change target, of Scotland becoming a net zero society by 2045.

Further action to support this was set out in the Scottish Government's Climate Change Plan Update which we published in December. Within that we made the ambitious commitment to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in car kilometres by 2030. To affect that that will require us to take forward a range of actions. One thing is clear though - we need a positive alternative and the delivery of bus partnership and the Bus Partnership Fund is absolutely crucial to that.

In delivering this fund we recognise that local authorities and bus operators locally are best placed to identify the priorities within their own local area. We're looking for partnerships to develop towards bus service improvement partnerships as set out in the Transport Scotland Act 2019.

We're already seeing a number of partnerships and alliances across Scotland, and I want them to develop and deliver ambitious bus priority schemes to tackle the negative impacts of congestion on bus services.

Congestion is most acute in larger urban areas, but we know from engagement with local authorities and bus operators that its effects can permeate out into rural areas and impact on people's access to employment, leisure and social opportunities right across the country.

The fund will be guided by the evidence on how bus services will be improved by addressing congestion, but we also expect the Partnership Fund to help to lead to an approach that allows further action and investment from partners to help tackle the climate emergency - by helping us to reduce private car use and also in supporting modal shift.

I therefore want to urge you to be ambitious in your applications to the fund, and also to be inspired by the speakers that you hear from today, given their experience in changing travel behaviour through bus partnership and priority.

In closing, given the events of the last year, I'm delighted to see the partnerships which are developing between our local authorities and bus operators. I’m very proud of the way in which the Bus Partnership Fund is moving forward, and I want to encourage all of you to work in partnership to ensure that we revolutionise the way in which bus services are delivered for the benefits of all of our communities.

I wish you well with today's event and I look forward to hearing about your ambitious plans and your applications for the Bus Partnership Fund.