credit Dimosthenis Violaris

Glasgow needs its night buses

By Lola Rose

First Glasgow’s decision to discontinue night bus services puts the safety of young women at risk.

First Glasgow have decided to withdraw their night bus services from July 31. Insufficient passenger numbers mean that, according to Graeme Macfarlane, commercial director at First Bus Scotland, the services are not financially viable. To sustain them would require a tripling of the number of weekend passengers overnight, which he says is not a realistic expectation. This is despite the services only being reintroduced last year, with the aim of bolstering Glasgow’s night-time economy after Covid-19.

The cessation of night bus services – which connect the City Centre with suburban areas such as Clydebank, Paisley, Newton Mearns, East Kilbride, Hamilton, Motherwell and Wishaw – will have significant and detrimental repercussions. Those residing in such outlying regions will be forced to allocate a significant portion of their wages to taxis or other forms of unaffordable personal transportation. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, this a luxury that many individuals cannot feasibly afford.

This decision has the potential to disproportionately impact the city’s lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers, who contribute to the local economy by working in bars, clubs, and hotels. Depriving such workers of safe and affordable public transport means they will be faced with the difficult choice of a dangerous walk home or a costly taxi fare. As a bar employee who heavily relies on night buses for safe commuting, I belong to a group of highly vulnerable young women profoundly affected by this development. It compromises our safety and security, subjecting us to elevated risks of harassment, assault, and intimidation during our journey home. Our wellbeing and fundamental rights have been disregarded, necessitating immediate acknowledgement and redressal of the consequences by public transportation authorities.

Numerous individuals are calling on First Bus and Glasgow City Council (GCC) to reconsider. Ruth Boyle, the policy and campaigns manager for the Poverty Alliance, criticised the decision, emphasising that night buses are a “crucial lifeline” for individuals with low incomes. She argued that for many people, the availability of these services can determine whether they can keep their jobs or are forced to leave, either because they do not own a car or cannot afford taxi fares.

The integrity of GCC’s endorsement of the Get Me Home Safely Campaign also comes into question. The success of this campaign, which aimed to secure transport provisions for hospitality workers finishing shifts after 11pm, was celebrated as a “significant milestone” by Sharon Graham, the General Secretary of Unite the Union. However, the motion proposed by GCC does not mandate employers to cover the costs of late-night transportation for their employees. Instead, it focuses on providing training for public transport workers to address gender-based violence, sexual assault, and harassment. The abrupt removal of night buses has left these workers without any transportation alternatives, necessitating a shift towards transforming the campaign into a legally binding mandate. 

The Get Me Home Safely initiative was initiated by Unite in 2021 following the sexual assault experienced by Caitlin Lee, a union member who was denied a taxi by her five-star hotel employer, and had to walk home from a shift at midnight. Lee, who now serves as a trade union organiser, emphasises the challenging situation faced by workers due to the limited availability of safe and affordable transport, highlighting the urgent need for change to prevent further incidents from occurring.

To contribute to the preservation of Glasgow’s night buses, individuals can sign the petition below, or contact their local MSP or Councillor. By voicing concerns and advocating for the continuation of night buses, we can hope to influence decision-making processes and safeguard these essential services.Sign the petition to save Glasgow’s night buses here.


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