Chapter 7.2.1 Strategic approaches

Fair transport pricing

Rebalancing public transport prices to be cheaper than driving or free would create a significant shift away from car use.

UK Govt
Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
Emissions reduction
Behaviour change

Using public transport should be cheaper than driving. But over recent decades, public transport fares, and in particular bus fares, have risen far ahead of the cost of living, while car use has become cheaper in real terms. This leads to decisions like, for instance, the recent threat to withdraw night buses in Glasgow.

Percentage change in travel cost 1999-2017

Percentage change in the real-terms cost of UK transport from 1999 to 2017.164

This is particularly problematic for ethnic minorities who have been disproportionately impacted when it comes to transport costs. Public transport costs have driven up living costs for ethnic minorities 32% compared to only 10% for white people.165

We must rebalance prices to incentivise public transport over private car use.

For instance, the recently introduced €49 a month ‘Deutschlandticket’ in Germany has led to a 25% rise in passengers on regional rail services over its first three months.166 The ticket allows as much travel as the user wants on most buses, and local, suburban and regional trains.

The policy in this chapter on free bus travel would be a big step forward, but cheaper and better train services are also needed, alongside policies which make the cost of motoring more fully reflect the costs imposed on society – see for instance policies on WorkPlace Parking Levies and a climate-based MoT levy.

For further information:



You get what you pay for – 20 years of devolved transport policy, SPICE, 2019, for-20-years-of-devolved-transport-policy/


Falling faster amidst a cost-of-living crisis – Poverty, Inequality and Ethnicity in the UK, Runnymede, 2022, com/61488f992b58e687f1108c7c/633d8007a3bfa49bd4cd0fa8_Runnymede%20Briefing%20Cost%20of%20Living%20FINAL.pdf


Deutschlandticket: Germany’s €49 ticket pushes passenger numbers up 25% on local train services, Euronews, July 2023, https://www.

Version 1.0: September 2023

The contents of this document will be updated on a regular basis.