Bus users who benefit from free travel are more likely to be satisfied with their journeys than people who have to pay, new research has found.
Satisfaction levels with bus services varied from 84% to 93% for fare paying passengers, compared to 92% to 98% for those with a free bus pass.
The findings were part of a survey of almost 8,000 bus users across Scotland, which found that overall 91% of Scots were happy with their last bus trip – compared to 88% in England.
Commuters were less happy than other passengers – with satisfaction ratings amongst those making daily trips to work or study ranging from 80% to 93%, compared to 92% to 96% for non-commuters.
Overall satisfaction levels also varied across the country, from the 88% of passengers who were very/fairly happy with their trip in the Highlands to 94% in both the south east and south west of Scotland.
And while more than three quarters (76%) of passengers in the south east region thought their journey was good value for money, only 55% of bus users in the Highlands felt the same.
The research was done by the independent watchdog Transport Focus, and included services run by several operators, including First Aberdeen, First Glasgow, First Scotland East, Lothian Buses, Stagecoach and Xplore Dundee.
Its findings was released after official figures showed a fall in the number of bus journeys made in Scotland in 2017-18.
Almost three quarters (74%) of trips on public transport were by bus, but there were some five million fewer bus journeys than the previous year – a 1.5% drop.
Robert Samson, senior stakeholder manager at Transport Focus, said: “Over 40% of passengers in Scotland surveyed say the bus is the only real means of transport available to them, so it’s vital that their service is on time, reliable and offers good value for money.
“These results are good news for bus passengers, operators and transport authorities across Scotland.
“Businesses such as Stagecoach in Tayside and Central show what can be done when bus operators and transport authorities use the Bus Passenger Survey results to identify improvements for their passengers.”
But he added: “There are also huge variations in satisfaction with value for money ratings across Scotland, so there is room for improvement.
“Operators and authorities must work together to deliver radical changes that will attract new passengers and ensure bus travel continues to provide an essential lifeline to communities.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We welcome the positive overall satisfaction scores for operators across Scotland in the Transport Focus survey. These scores are an improvement on last year which again demonstrates a higher satisfaction rate with services here in Scotland in comparison to England.
“We are committed to supporting our vital bus services and tackling the historic decline in bus passenger numbers. The forthcoming Transport Bill aims to give local authorities the flexibility to pursue partnership working, local franchising, or running their own buses, allowing local authorities to better respond to local needs. We are also looking to improve the information available to passengers so that bus travel is more accessible and attractive.”