Making the Best and Worst of Scottish Transport Better

You Told Us the Best and Worst Things about Scottish Transport – Now Let’s Work out How to Make them Better

Thanks to everyone who contributed to our review of the best and worst of Scottish transport either by e-mail or face to face at our networking event.

We have collated and ranked the responses and the most frequently stated issues coming top and bottom have been identified below. The sample does not aim to be either comprehensive or representative, but if many of the best informed people about Scottish transport hold these views they deserve further consideration.

We now want to look at how to make more of the big successes and how to fix the problems – so we need your help. Please respond to this e-mail adding brief comments below including suggestions for what more can be done. We will then collate the responses for Scottish Transport Review and publish the results with anonymous quotes from the responses later in the spring.

First let’s look at the best of Scottish transport. How can we protect and promote this better and extend the best approaches across more of the country?

  1. A scheduled air service has planes landing on the beach in Barra – This iconic transport service is famous across the world promoting everything that is best about Scotland.
  2. Many of the best roads in the world to drive and cycle  – View from the road, discovery, and freedom were all emotions mentioned.
  3. The Lothian Buses real time information app – Designed with the customer’s needs in mind users have no problem planning journeys and watching the count-down till the bus arrives.
  4. Travelling with a Calmac hopscotch ticket in the Hebrides.
  5. The flat fare on Lothian buses in Edinburgh – The buses are used by every part of Edinburgh society and the flat fare makes the service offer more simple and understandable
  6. The ease of movement in pedestrianised Buchanan Street in Glasgow  – The space for people creates a social and economic magnet.
  7. How paying for buses and parking by phone has removed the need to collect pound coins – e.g. the apps now in use across most of Scotland for parking, bus and rail tickets (on cross border rail services).
  8. Superb views from the trains on the West Highland rail line.

The worst aspects of Scottish transport came up time and again in responses. How can we fix these issues and who needs to be involved?

  1. Poor standards of road maintenance – The timing of these views at the end of winter may partly have affected this but road maintenance has been near the top of concerns of households for decades.
  2. Pedestrian death and serious injury on the roads at a level not consistent with a civilised country – Pedestrian casualties are still relatively high per head of population (even compared to England).
  3. The lack of easy ways to pay for bus, tram and rail services – It is still much harder to pay for bus and rail than for other transport and other products and services. From cumbersome slow ticket machines at tram stops to the lack of simple and transparent ways of paying for bus and rail services, many different concerns were mentioned.
  4. Bus journey timesBus travel is often slower than walking and usually slower than cycling n urban areas
  5. Pricing issues for some rail journeys – The Glasgow to Edinburgh service in particular was criticised for its high cost with transport prices inconsistent with policy goals.
  6. Delaying and humiliating bus passengers by asking them to find the correct fare when boarding buses (with little prior information about what the fare might be) – unfamiliar travellers don’t want to appear foolish.
  7. Clutter on streets with unnecessary signs and lines and poorly managed parking
  8. The old and decaying bus fleet used for services across much of the country – Operators seem to celebrate doing a heroic job in difficult circumstances rather than seeking to do better.
  9. The inequitable distribution of public funding for transport  – Government spending on transport is targeted at the wealthiest people.
  10. Too little tax on transport capital (e.g. land for car parking) and far too much tax on revenue (e.g. wages of drivers) – The tax system incentivises greed and lack of productivity.

Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts. We look forward to hearing from you.


  • Politicians across the country need to recognise that approximately half of households do not have access to a motor vehicle and they’re failing in their political duty if they do not represent those people adequately. Far too much attention is given to car congestion, when the actual solution to congestion is increased use of public transport.

  • A contrast in pierheads. Wemyss Bay exemplifies interchange and is in the words of Simon Jenkins (who put it on the cover of his recent book about Britain’s 100 Best Stations) the only railway station that is in itself a work of art. By contrast since Stena moved to Cairnryan in 2011, Stranraer Harbour Station has not relocated nearer the town, nor has the pierhead been redeveloped.

  • The Northlink ferry between Aberdeen and Lerwick heads towards the top of my list of the best of Scottish transport. Can’t think why I had never tried this route before last weekend. Friendly staff, comfortable berths, a menu that tries hard, an excellent onboard shop and terminals that at both ends are just walking distance from connecting transport. In my mental map of Scotland, Shetland has come out of its box to push Aberdeen well south!

  • Confidence in Edinburgh bus travel is being diminished by the capital’s continuing reliance on its ageing and hard-to-read Bus Tracker system. The screen at Roseburn’s eastbound stop has been out of action since May awaiting a decision on whether to renew the existing water-damaged kit or replace with a new system. Why can’t Edinburgh have as modern and easy-to-read bus information system as other Scottish cities including Glasgow and Inverness?

  • Little wonder that Edinburgh City Council reportedly fears the utilities are taking it for fools when, once the Festivals were over, Scottish Water returned to dig up Queensferry Road again – and Scottish Water’s year-long occupation of Haymarket Terrace was replaced by the arrival of Scottish Gas. It seems that Councils have the power to fine the companies, but the fines are not sufficiently high to influence their behaviour – and that by citing an emergency the utility companies can dig when and where they want.

  • The worst conflict in transport is between cyclists and pedestrians. Often wrongly bracketed together as active travel, they need segregation from each other. Just as cyclists deserve roadspace that is separated from motorised traffic, so pedestrians should not find paths through their local park taken over by commuter cyclists. Transport planners need to get down to the micro level in order to understand the distinctly different expectations of cyclists, both commuter and leisure, and pedestrians.

  • Without a doubt the worst bus run in Scotland is Kilmarnock. They’re at least 10 mins late all the time(usually 15). Bus drivers threaten physically disabled people and slag off the mentally disabled. I’ve seen it. A friend was at a party and there was a leaving do for a bus driver at the same venue. My friend told me that at least half of the bus drivers were in the toilet all the time takig cocaine. Unbelievable

  • In the City of London the pedestrian phase on traffic lights tells you how many seconds you have got left. Why don’t we have this in Scotland?

  • So a link to Glasgow Airport has once more gone off the rails with the news that a people-mover last considered twenty years ago is again on the agenda to Paisley Gilmour Street, a station with a limited range of onward destinations.

    What does this matter? An airport rail link is not of itself a game-changer : having the only airport station in Scotland has not stemmed the loss of flights from Prestwick as Ryanair switched to Glasgow.

    People don’t take the train between their home or office and the airport. Why do that when there are friends or relatives to see you off, and owing to overnight maintenance the trains may not even be running at the ungodly hour that you set off or return?

    However at the other end we may unconsciously judge our destination by the ease and comfort with which we are rushed from the airport to the city-break or resort of our choice. And of course as major employment hubs, airports may benefit from a rail link to get their workforce safely and easily in and out.

    Perhaps as one correspondent has written, advocates of a Glasgow Airport rail link view bus travel as being “beneath their dignity”, and we should accept that bus is best for Glasgow given its location close to the city-centre. Perhaps the time has come to recognise that Glasgow Airport is in the wrong place, and Edinburgh needs to be acknowledged as Scotland’s national airport, with a rail link from its Gateway station direct to Glasgow.

    Or perhaps we are going to have to accept that Scotland’s most useful airport rail link will continue to be the one with Manchester.

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