Reports this week indicate that Lothian Buses will increase the price of a single fare from later this year.
The increase, to £1.50, will mean that the cost of a single fare in the capital will have gone up by 150% since 2002.
The warning on fares comes amid negotiations over proposed cuts by the Scottish Government to the rate of reimbursement bus operators receive as part of the concessionary travel scheme.
The concessionary travel card allows over 60s and people with disabilities to use the bus without paying a fare. While the service is ‘free’ for these passengers, there is a cost in the form of Government subsidy.
At the moment, for every journey made by a passenger with a concession card, the bus operator can claim 67p in the pound back from the Scottish Government. However, it now appears likely that this rate will be cut by up to 13%, reducing payments to bus companies by up to £15m per year.
This announcement lays bare the impact of the SNP Government’s choices on bus travel. This year, fares could go up because of the underfunding of the concessionary fares scheme. Last year it was because of SNP cuts to the Bus Service Operators Grant.
This will inevitably have an impact on commuters and will particularly hit those in low paid jobs who rely on public transport.
It is commendable that Lothian Buses want to maintain services and keep increases to a minimum but they’re increasingly being boxed in by the Scottish Government’s funding approach.
We need the Transport Minister to act now to head off the possibility of more fare hikes or more service cancellations this spring across the Lothians.