Scottish road traffic at all-time high as bus use falls

Traffic mileage has reached almost 30 billion miles a year. Picture: Hemedia The rise in 2018 was accompanied by a further drop in bus passengers, which have fallen by 10 per cent in five years, according to the Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency.

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth Scotland said the figures painted a "grim picture".

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Air pollution campaigner Gavin Thomson said: "Years of splurging billions on newer and bigger roads has come at a huge cost to our climate, public health and the rest of our transport system."

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Total vehicle mileage increased by 151 million to almost 30 billion miles, which has risen 10 per cent in five years. There were a total of 3m vehicles registered - up 1 per cent on 2017. By contrast, journeys by public transport fell by 8m to 517m, mainly because of a reduction in bus use.

That went down by 2 per cent to 380m journeys compared to 2017, and was down by 10 per cent over the past five years. ScotRail - Scotland's main train operator - saw its passenger total unchanged on 2017 at 97.8m, but that was 13 per cent higher than in 2013. Air travel was up 2 per cent to 29.4m journeys, and 27 per cent higher than five years previously.

There was also an 8 per cent rise in distance cycled on 2017. Transport secretary Michael Matheson claimed "the future of bus in Scotland has never been brighter" because of "transformational" GBP500 million funding to improve bus lanes and priority over other traffic so punctuality and reliability increased. He was also confident other Scottish Government pledges "will help deliver a more sustainable transport system".

He said: "We face a global climate emergency. "Scotland must transition to a net-zero emissions economy for the benefit of our environment, our people and our future prosperity." But Scottish Labour, which was in coalition with the Scottish Liberal Democrats from 1999 to 2007, said: "It's clear 13 years of SNP mismanagement has hit our public transport system hard."

Transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: "We're facing a climate emergency, yet the number of passengers using local bus networks is consistently declining." His Scottish Conservatives counterpart Dean Lockhart agreed the bus figures were "worrying". He said: "The SNP's plans for its transport policy to address climate change is failing as the total number of journeys being made by public transport falls while motor traffic continues to increase."

Scottish Liberal Democrats transport spokesman Mike Rumbles said: "Sadly the figures show just how little is being done by the Scottish Government to promote active travel [walking and cycling] and public transport in Scotland. "There is no point having government ministers standing up in the Parliament and paying lip service to environmentally friendly and healthy ways to travel if nothing is going to be done to improve the situation. "We need to completely rethink the way we operate buses in Scotland.

"Passengers want frequency, reliability and convenience, but rather than improving quality and encouraging more people to use the bus, many services are being reduced or cut altogether."

Gina Hanrahan, head of policy at environmental campaigners WWF Scotland, said: "Transport is Scotland's biggest source of damaging climate emissions and these figures are continuing to go in the wrong direction."

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