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The privatised Scottish bus industry

Cowie, Jonathan and Asenova, Darinka (1998) The privatised Scottish bus industry. Quarterly Economic Commentary, 23 (3). pp. 32-37. ISSN 0306-7866

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Within Scotland the bus industry has played a key role in the public transport system, with substantially higher bus journeys and bus kilometres per head of population than in any other part of the UK. Specific reasons for this are difficult to identify, however low levels of car ownership and massive population relocations in the 1950s and 60s are both possible contributory factors. The importance to Scotland of transport as a whole, has been recognised in the fact that it is to be one of the areas of devolved power for the Scottish parliament. Much has been published on individual changes to the industry over the last ten years, particularly from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), and these are relatively well documented elsewhere (see for example DoT 1997). To very briefly summarise, since 1990 in real terms prices have risen and unit costs fallen, passenger numbers substantially declined and total bus kilometres increased. Given the importance of mobility to the economic and social welfare of communities, particularly the role of bus transport for those on low incomes (Farrington 1994), this paper uses data in the public domain to examine the effects of privatisation and deregulation on the Scottish industry within a British context Where possible, Scottish figures are compared to the rest of Britain outside London, although some variation will exist within these areas. Nevertheless, it is the overall trends which are considered, with some of the wider ranging effects of rising prices, falling costs and increased output also identified.