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Scottish train drivers and climate activists call for cheaper, more accessible public transport

Train drivers and climate activists are calling for a public transport revolution in Scotland.
Train drivers and climate activists are calling for a public transport revolution in Scotland. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Angela Symons
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Cheaper public transport would be good for the climate and the economy, Scottish activists argue.

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Climate campaigners and rail workers have teamed up to demand an inquiry into Scotland’s public transport system.

“Transport is Scotland’s biggest source of climate emissions, so we urgently need to change the way we get around,” Rosie Hampton, just transition campaigner at environmental organisation Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoE), said in a statement.

“If we make public transport cheaper than cars, we can create jobs, strengthen our economy and meet our climate commitments.”

Train drivers’ union ASLEF joined FoE in demanding a clear plan from Scotland’s government for the country’s public transport network that will help achieve climate targets while growing the economy.

The call came as Members of Parliament met yesterday to discuss the transfer of train operator ScotRail into the public sector.

Climate activists and rail unions want greener, more affordable trains

In a letter submitted ahead of yesterday’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, FoE and ASLEF called for more affordable, accessible and attractive rail services.

The committee, which scrutinises the Scottish Government's climate policies and progress, convened yesterday to discuss ScotRail’s nationalisation.

FoE and ASLEF say the government lacks a plan or vision for Scotland’s public transport - particularly when it comes to helping the country meet its climate targets.

The letter asks the committee to conduct a “broad enquiry into rail services, and indeed a more integrated transport system in Scotland incorporating all public transport”.

ASLEF and FoE have produced their own visions for Scotland’s rail services and infrastructure. These include the 2021 joint rail unions document ‘A Vision for Scotland’s Railway’ and FoE’s recent report ‘On the Move: Investing in public transport to meet carbon targets and create jobs’.

These lay out how investment in public transport could help the country reduce the number of cars on the road while creating jobs, boosting the economy and reducing social isolation.

But they say the Scottish government lacks a plan for a more sustainable public transport system.

“Transport has a critical role in helping Scotland meet its climate targets, growing its economy and achieving a just transition,” ASLEF Scottish Organiser Kevin Lindsay said in a statement.

“For Scotland to become a greener, cleaner and healthier nation it needs a vision and a plan for our rail services and how we are actually going to help shift people and goods from road to rail.”

How could Scotland’s government promote a shift from cars to trains?

High prices are a major barrier preventing more people from using public transport in Scotland, according to Hampton.

“There are big disparities in the costs of different kinds of transport at the moment - motoring costs have been kept artificially low for years while train tickets are getting more and more expensive,” she said.

“This imbalance is taking us in the wrong direction, yet we have not seen any ambition from the Scottish Government in plans to tackle this,” Hampton continued.

“We need clear, costed plans that demonstrate the level of investment needed, where jobs will be created, and how these plans will be implemented.”

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Emphasising the urgency of their call, Lindsay added “Quite frankly, there is no time to lose in pursuing this agenda and we hope that the Net Zero Committee listens to this joint call from workers and environmentalists and conducts the full inquiry we are asking for.”

Countries including Germany and Hungary have already taken action to make public transport more attractive by introducing low-cost ‘climate tickets’ - a trend that looks set to spread in the coming months and years.

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