2 September 2021
Climate, Jobs, Justice: Making the Just Transition Happen, Just Transition Partnership

How to transform transport in Glasgow

Hi everyone, thanks for inviting me to speak today. I’m Ellie Harrison. I’m the current Chair of Get Glasgow Moving.

We’re volunteer-run campaign founded in 2016 to demand better public transport for everyone in our region. Specifically we want to see fully-integrated public transport.

That’s buses, trains, Subway (and trams) being planned and coordinated to work together in harmony to take you where we need to go. We want public transport so good, that people no longer need to or want to own cars.

This is how public transport is meant to work, and this is how it does work in my different other cities around the world, in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Denmark.

It is not rocket science to deliver! The only reason we can’t do it here is because of the deregulation and privatisation of buses and trains in the 80s and 90s, which successive governments have completely failed to address.

Because of the lack of power and funding devolved to our regional transport authorities (by the Scottish Government) and the pathetic sums of funding it receives in comparison to other cities, and other transport modes.

To make a just transition – everyone in Scotland needs access to world-class public transport! We must start work immediately, so that it is up-and-running well before 2030.

But if there’s every a place where it’s needed the most it’s in the Glasgow City region. The most populous part of Scotland, with some of the lowest levels of car ownership and highest levels of poverty.

Part of a sprawling conurbation linked with massive motorways with hundreds of thousands of people in the surrounding council areas driving in and out every day – importing huge amounts of air pollution and of course the carbon emissions.

The Connectivity Commission report in 2019, showed that on third of Glaswegians are ‘simply being left behind’ – locked out of the local economy, education and job opportunities because they don’t own a car and have been left stranded by private bus companies.

So the first step has to be to re-regulate the private bus companies, so that we can reduce and cap the fares and plan and co-ordinate the bus routes so that they serve all our communities.

I’m just going to play a short video, highlighting the opportunity we have right now and showing what’s possible if we can force regional transport authorities to fully-utilise the new powers in the Transport Act 2019.

It just sounds like common sense doesn’t it?

But the private bus companies have such a stronghold over the political class of Scotland, that we really do have a fight on our hands.

None of the politicians that we’ve spoken seem to have grasped the scale of the challenge that we face to transform our public transport network.

Transport is the biggest contributor to air pollution and carbon emission in Glasgow – so it really must be where we focus all our attention.

The ‘modal shift’ that is necessary over the next decade is enormous.

So we really need to be thinking, not just about providing a world-class, fully integrated service – but also making it complete free to use.

That is what many forward-thinking towns and cities across the world are doing: Tallinn, Kansas, Dunkrik and Calais.

So Get Glasgow Moving has been working with the Glasgow Trades Council and other local environmental groups on the Free Our City campaign to demand similar ambition for the Glasgow region.

The Scottish Government’s Just Transition Commission recommended setting up pilots for free public transport and we want Glasgow to be one of them.

But is has to be accompanied with a massive improvement in services. There’s no use in a free bus, if it doesn’t go where you need to go or stops running at 6pm.

There are thousands of new green jobs waiting to be created in delivering the world-class public transport network that we need, which it why it is a vital component of the just transition.