Executive summary

In November 2022 the Poverty Alliance were commissioned to recruit, support, and facilitate a Citizen’s Panel of people with experience of poverty and using public transport in Scotland to share their views and shape the Fair Fares Review.

What we did

People from rural and urban areas with lived experience of poverty were recruited. We designed a series of discussions focusing on their experiences in accessing public transport now, their aspirations and their vision for a World Class Public Transport System in Scotland and key messages for the Fair Fares Review. The first and last session brought all participants together with Scottish Government officials. Sessions in between were divided between urban and rural groups.

Who took part

21 participants were recruited and engaged with the process throughout. These were 15 women, six men. Eight were Black and Minority Ethnic, 13 were white. 13 lived in urban areas, eight lived in rural areas. Four identified as having a disability. Participants came from Aberdeen, Borders, Dundee, Edinburgh, Fife, Glasgow, Inverness, and Western Isles.

Key Messages

Fundamentally, people experiencing poverty in rural and urban Scotland had similar aspirations and priorities for public transport.

A lack of safety forces people to change their behaviour and limits participation in society. The safety of women and girls, disabled people and Black and minority ethnic people should be considered throughout the Fair Fares review.

People living on low incomes in both urban and rural Scotland are much more likely to use buses rather than trains. Public transport interventions that work for people living on low incomes should therefore focus on buses.

Reliability is critical to people. Public transport must be reliable and show up, in good condition and on time, with routes that work for local communities.

Both rural and urban participants prioritised the need for a public transport system that is more affordable, more accessible, more reliable and meets local needs.

Rural and urban groups emphasised the need for expanded and easily accessible concessionary schemes that reduce costs for people who need it most.

Ticketing should be integrated to cut costs for the user and to create ease of travel.

Participants strongly felt that as people living on low incomes are the group most likely to rely on public transport, there should continue to be participation throughout the Fair Fares Review. They offer to support that participation.

Aspirations for Public Transport in Scotland

Aspirations of a rural group of participants – in five years' time

More people who are currently disenfranchised from services will have access to free bus services, more services should be available in rural areas at reduced costs. It is not fair that peak fares are a punishment for people in work.

Scotland should work towards a gradual free public transport for everyone.

Concessionary travel schemes should be automated to remove barriers in application process and should be integrated for all forms of transport.

Extend concessionary travel schemes to homeless, in care or with No Recourse to Public Funds (refused asylum seekers, foreign spouses of British nationals etc).

Information about routes, timing, accessibility for elderly and disabled people will be easily available. 

Quality of public transport stock will be improved as will the ancillary services (waiting rooms, toilets, shelter at stations or bus stops) etc.

Public transport will be safe and accessible for people with disabilities, those with caring responsibilities and passengers with additional support needs.

Aspirations of an urban group of participants – in five years’ time

Public transport should be affordable for all passengers. To achieve this, costs should be set as a ratio of the minimum wage for under 23s. 

In the longer term, we work towards public transport being free for all at the point of use.

Concessionary schemes should be extended to all those receiving benefits, avoiding barriers created by bureaucracy. People in the asylum process should be included.

Public transport should be reliable, predictable, and dependable.

Some ways to achieve this include ensuring signs at bus stops and apps are accurate; designing buses to have space for both wheelchairs and buggies and providers should be held financially accountable for unreliable services. 

Public transport should be safe for everyone regardless of gender, race, and religion. This review should consider gender, disability, and race throughout the whole process. This might result in providers and frontline staff taking account of gender, disability, and race in training. 

A majority, but not everyone, agreed that to reduce car use and encourage public transport use we should have a publicly owned public transport system to reduce the inefficiency of the profit motive.

Pathfinder Projects: the removal of Peak Fares on railways

Participants supported the removal of peak fares on railways as a way to support people experiencing in-work poverty. However, this pilot pathfinder will not benefit any participants in this process as people living on low incomes are much more likely to use buses than trains.

Participants deliberated and prioritised pathfinder projects that would make a difference for them.

Rural participants top priority was:

  • Expanding the concessionary travel scheme to all forms of public transport, (bus, trains ferries etc) and increase target groups.

Urban participants top priority was:

  • Reducing bus costs by capping fares and affordable monthly tickets