The cost of transport is putting significant pressures on those on lower incomes, and poor services can leave people isolated
Scotland’s public transport must be more affordable and accountable to help loosen the grip of poverty.
A new report published today (Thursday) by the Poverty and Inequality Commission says that more must be done to make transport affordable.
It shows people on low incomes are more likely to use public transport, but the cost can put significant pressures on household budgets and poor transport services can leave people isolated and cut off from where they need to go.
The commission heard examples from people with lived experience of poverty where lack of affordable, accessible and reliable transport restricted their ability to access jobs and healthcare. These issues are particularly severe in rural areas, where public transport may be limited, and for women and disabled people where services are not designed to meet their needs.
Drawing on the experiences that people shared, the commission has set out 13 recommendations to redesign the transport system so that it is more affordable, accountable and provides a service that meets the needs of people on low incomes.
It recommends that action is taken by Transport Scotland to pilot ways of making travel more affordable, such as widening access to concessionary travel schemes, and to make sure that people with experience of poverty are actively engaged in designing and planning transport services.
Kaliani Lyle, the commission’s deputy chair, said: “For too many people unaffordable and unreliable public transport is locking them into poverty. We heard about feelings of isolation from those without easy access to public transport, the anxiety of unreliable networks and high levels of stress that stems from high transport costs putting pressure on already stretched budgets.
“The commission’s recommendations set out actions that must be taken if transport is to fulfil its potential to release people from the grip of poverty, enabling people to access employment and education and improving quality of life for those on low incomes.”
The report also recommends that the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland take a rights-based approach to transport, recognising the crucial role that transport plays in enabling people to achieve their human rights, such as the right to work, education, health and wellbeing.
Kaliani added: “While significant amounts of money are invested in public transport, those on the lowest incomes, particularly women, disabled people and those in rural areas, often see little benefit. A transport network that proceeds from a rights-based starting point will go a long way to address this.”
The commission convened a working group whose remit was to identify recommendations relating to transport that could help reduce or address the impact of poverty. It was also aided by the Poverty Alliance, Oxfam and HUG which helped lead workshops designed to gather the views of those with lived experience of poverty and assess their experience with public transport