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Trade union chiefs in campaign for council to take over Aberdeen buses

Trade union chiefs want buses to come under the council's control.
Trade union chiefs want buses to come under the council's control.

North-east trade union leaders have joined calls for a council-owned firm to take over buses in Aberdeen.

Aberdeen Trades Union Council (ATUC) has launched a regional campaign aiming to bring the city’s bus network under public control.

The campaign has been launched alongside others in Glasgow and Tayside in response to falling passenger numbers, and has been backed by anti-poverty groups and environmentalists.

The “Take Back Our Buses” bid will run in the lead-up to next year’s council elections, with leaders keen to put pressure on politicians to commit to change.

Call for council to take over Aberdeen buses

“Cuts to bus services are significantly impacting upon young and old alike that rely on these buses for getting to medical appointments, college, work, shops and visits to families and friends,” said ATUC’s John Clark.

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“Essential workers on shift work across the north-east of Scotland are being hampered by bus services cuts which limits their options to do their jobs and forces them to rely on more expensive means of transport.

“The 24% fall in passenger journeys over the past five years needs to be reversed and we will only achieve this through publicly controlled and owned buses within an integrated transport system.”

Transport in the Granite City is currently primarily operated by First Aberdeen.

First operates the majority of routes in Aberdeen.

Council backs calls for public ownership

However, the city’s ruling administration have previously backed calls for buses to come under the control of Aberdeen City Council.

According to research by the Scottish Trades Union Council (STUC), passenger numbers in the north-east have dropped by nearly a quarter over the last five years.

However, in Edinburgh and Lothian, where public transport is operated by council-owned Lothian Buses, passenger numbers have remained steady since 2014.

Sandra Macdonald, Aberdeen City Council’s transport spokeswoman, said she was “looking forward to seeing how the campaign progresses”.

Aberdeen City Council transport spokeswoman Sandra Macdonald.

“It is a really positive thing to have, and it is very helpful to have a campaign highlighting these issues,” the Labour councillor added.

“We already have a report coming to the council in February on the steps that would be necessary to set up a municipal bus company.

“It is part of our commitment to green energy and net zero.”

First Aberdeen slams proposal

Despite the council’s positive reaction, First’s interim managing director Duncan Cameron said the firm was focused on “serving customers” – and branded the argument “stale and out of date”.

“Working in partnership and playing to the strengths of all organisations involved is the best way to deliver for people,” he added.

“The solutions do not lie with who owns what bus. We recently worked in partnership with Aberdeen City Council to deliver and operate the world’s first double-decker hydrogen buses for the city of Aberdeen during the pandemic, which have been well received by our customers.

“We are also exploring additional options to invest and decarbonise our Aberdeen fleet further in the medium term.

“It is practical change on the ground for the communities that we serve that are needed, not a stale and out of date regulatory debate based on whose name is above the door.”

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