• CTA appointed to Transport Minister’s Scottish Bus Taskforce

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    • CTA appointed to Transport Minister’s Scottish Bus Taskforce
    • by David Kelly
      Director for Scotland

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    One of my key priorities when I joined CTA twelve months ago was to boost the policy presence and influence of Community Transport in Scotland and secure a place for our sector at the top table with politicians and partners. So, I’m delighted to have been appointed to the new Bus Taskforce by Jenny Gilruth MSP, Scotland’s Transport Minister, to represent CTA, our members and our passengers.

    The Taskforce has been convened to address the immediate challenges facing the bus sector as we recover from the impact of COVID-19 and navigate the worsening cost of living crisis. It is Chaired by the Minister and includes representatives from Transport Scotland, the Office of the Traffic Commissioner, small and large commercial bus operators, local government, regional transport partnerships, bus passenger organisations and, of course, CTA.

    The Taskforce’s agenda is focused on the short-term issues which we are currently facing together as operators of public and community bus services, albeit with an eye on the longer-term, strategic challenges and opportunities. We have collectively agreed 3 clear areas of focus:

    • Patronage growth
    • Driver shortages
    • Community engagement

    As a positive and constructive member of the Taskforce, I’m looking forward to working collaboratively with my colleagues and Transport Scotland officials over the next 6 months or more, as the Terms of Reference puts it, to:

    • Set out a collaborative pathway for increasing bus patronage long-term
    • Co-design a pathway to address driver shortages
    • Co-design best practice guidance for community engagement on networks and changes

    Therefore, the Taskforce gives CTA an important opportunity to engage with partners and influence the behaviours, policies and investments of the Scottish Government, local authorities and commercial bus operators.

    I’m especially pleased to have been appointed as Chair of the Taskforce’s Sub-Group on Community Engagement. In the Community Transport sector, we know how vital it is that local people and communities are listened to and empowered – whether they are seeking to protect essential public transport links from cuts or create new community-led services which meet unmet transport needs. I want us to take this opportunity to shape best practice guidance for local authorities and commercial bus operators which moves beyond the narrow limits of consultation towards meaningful engagement and, ultimately, community empowerment.

    The Taskforce’s first meeting was held virtually last Thursday (6 October) with a focus on the Network Support Grant (NSG) and NSG Plus, which are important sources of funding for 35% of CTA members in Scotland, according to our recent research. NSG is the successor to the Bus Services’ Operator Grant (BSOG) in Scotland and NSG Plus is a temporary elevated level of funding due to the pandemic and its aftermath. It had been due to come to an end on 9 October, but the Minister has now committed to finding ways to extend it for a few more months to hand the bus sector a financial lifeline during difficult times.

    I know our sector’s financial challenges and will continue to make the case for fair funding for Community Transport. The second round of the Plugged-In Communities Grant Fund will help some operators, as would an extension to NSG Plus. But we also want to increase the number of people benefiting from Community Transport to raise fare income and diversify sources of funding.

    Whether you deliver a Community Bus Service or operate a Volunteer Car Scheme, I’d love to hear from you to shape my input into the discussions and decisions of the Bus Taskforce and its Sub-Group on Community Engagement.

    • What are your priorities for the Taskforce?
    • What issues should we raise with the Minister?
    • How can we work together to increase patronage on your service, reduce driver shortages in our sector or improve community engagement locally?

    There are 3 ways you can have your say and share your ideas:

    1. Join our Member Meeting on Wednesday 26 October at 2pm – Register here
    2. Send me your thoughts – email david.kelly@ctauk.org with the subject line ‘Bus Taskforce’
    3. Arrange a conversation – get in touch with one of the team to schedule a call or a meeting

    Your views will be critical in helping me to be a strong voice for the Community Transport sector in these important discussions with the Minister and the Taskforce. This is your chance to influence government and key stakeholders at the highest level.

    Community Transport now has a seat at the top table – let’s make the most of it!

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