The Glasgow Subway is nicknamed ‘the clockwork orange’.
Why? Because, resplendent in orange branding, it operates on a single circular route on which you can travel clockwise or the other way round. It's beloved for its reliable ease, especially by confused tourists, new students or after the pubs close. Unlike the complex metros of Paris or London, in Glasgow if you miss your stop, you can just stay on it long enough to go round again! In a city where fewer than half own a car, that reliability is crucial in getting Glaswegians around.
Now this vital part of Glasgow life is under threat. After a collapse in passengers due to lockdown, the service lost £4.5 million between April and June. A Scottish Government package of emergency Covid-19 funding announced back in July came to a close at the end of September, and the Scottish Greens have launched a campaign for it to be protected from cuts.
While private bus and train operators have been given more money to tide them over until the new year, there’s nothing in sight for the publicly-owned Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT).
SPT has commented that if funding does not emerge, they will have no choice but to make cuts to other services, like the vital bus services they subsidise, not just in Glasgow but in twelve council areas stretching from Gourock to Girvan, Brodick to Biggar.
What’s more, the MyBus service is a lifeline for disabled and older people – wheelchair accessible buses that pick you up at your door and take you right to where you need to go, whether that’s a hospital appointment or the bingo. This, too, is at risk without funding.
Public transport is about connecting people. It’s about supporting the rights of everyone to get out, get to work, get to healthcare. Of course, with the climate crisis, we have no option but to build a city that doesn’t depend on cars – but this is also about fairness.
Greens want free public transport for everyone, owned in public hands, and we’ve made a big step towards that vision by winning free bus travel for all under-19s in Scotland next year. Yes, coronavirus has meant a whole raft of new challenges for public transport, but even more reason to invest now and secure its future.
At 124 years old, the Glasgow subway has survived plenty of crises before now. However, it’s going to require urgent investment to steer it through this one.
Together we can keep shoogling the Scottish Government on this – then it’s up to them to step in, and stop our underground going under.
Greens are pushing to Save Our Subway, and you can join the campaign too at greens.scot/SaveOurSubway.
Kim Long is the Scottish Green Party councillor for Dennistoun in Glasgow.