Comment: Regulate our bus services

Ken Macintosh launches his Scottish Labour leadership bid. Mr Macintosh will formally declare his candidacy and meets a group of students at Glasgow University to discuss their aspirations for their future Picture Robert Perry 3rd June 2015
Ken Macintosh launches his Scottish Labour leadership bid. Mr Macintosh will formally declare his candidacy and meets a group of students at Glasgow University to discuss their aspirations for their future Picture Robert Perry 3rd June 2015

New bus services for the Southern General!

I read the news release this week with anticipation that finally, after more than ten years of arguing the case, East Renfrewshire would get a direct bus link to our new hospital.

How wrong could I be. Yes, there are to be new or modified routes from First, but all of them from the north of the city or from the centre of Glasgow.

Residents in Eastwood are left having to change buses at least once and the enticing prospect of standing in the rain at Shawlands before they get to visit sick friends or family in hospital.

What made me feel even more annoyed was that rehabilitation services for older patients have also been moved, this time to Gartnavel.

We all know how much it matters to your recuperation to have someone visit you in hospital but we seem to be making this more difficult.

The arguments against a direct service from Eastwood to the Southern are that it would not be commercial.

I appreciate that here in East Ren we do have the second highest car ownership in Scotland, but that disguises the numbers who still rely on public transport.

There is the fantastic service provided by volunteer drivers run by Anne Marie Kennedy and Community Transport East Renfrewshire 
(formerly known as RSVP), the little red bus, but that is unlikely to meet all our needs.

Nor do I think the answer is more public subsidy.

We are already pouring tens of millions into bus services across Scotland through concessionary travel, fuel subsidies and more.

I don’t want to divert money away from the NHS simply to get people into our NHS. There is an answer though and it is through regulating our bus services.

Bus companies could bid for profitable routes but only on the basis that they also provided socially necessary services such as to our hospital.

There is a Bill before the Scottish Parliament right now that would do just that from my colleague Iain Gray.

Isn’t it time the Scottish Government used the powers they already have, agreed to work with other political parties and finally gave us the links to our hospital we so badly need?