Scots terrified to return to public transport post-pandemic, charity warns

Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland

SCOTLAND’s leading respiratory charity, Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland surveyed people about returning to public transport after the pandemic and found a worrying number of Scots do not feel safe doing so.   

Air pollution is a grave concern for our respiratory health, with an estimated 2000 premature deaths caused by poor air quality In Scotland every year(1).

In recent years, campaigners have worked with the Scottish government to encourage the public to reduce their emissions by considering using more public transport or lift sharing on their commutes for example. However, the coronavirus pandemic is putting progress made by these campaigns at risk, with a majority of Scots (59.8%) concerned about using public transport after the pandemic.  

In their recent survey, Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland asked Scots how they felt about using methods of public transport such as bus or train and found 62.9% of respondents will be using their own transport over public wherever possible due to COVID, as 68.5% of people feeling safer in their own car than on public transport. 

Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Scotland, said:  

“It’s quite alarming to see just how many people in Scotland do not feel confident in using public transport due to covid-19 and we fear this could really set back Scotland’s air quality efforts.  

“Whilst it is clear that whilst people will be opting for private cars over buses or trains at the moment, the issue of air quality is not being ignored either, 54.6% of respondents reported that they are still concerned about their local air quality. This explains why an overwhelming 85.5% of people agree that Transport Scotland need to ensure public transport is COVID safe. People want to return to public transport and continue to improve our country’s air quality, they just need to know it is safe to do so first.  

“That’s why today, on Clean Air Day, we’re calling for Transport Scotland to make any necessary adjustments to ensure our public transport is safe and accessible for people to return to with confidence.” 

Monica Lennon, MSP for Central Scotland and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, said:

“I completely understand why so many people are worried about going back to busy public transport and other aspects of pre-covid life. The pandemic has been a very worrying time and we all want to ensure we are doing everything to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

“However, air quality is a huge concern for protecting lung health in Scotland. One of the best ways we can begin to reduce air pollution is by using active and public modes of transport. That is why it is vital that the Scottish Government make clean air a priority and ensure public transport is completely covid safe and accessible for the people of Scotland to feel safe in their return.”

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