A SENEDD committee has quizzed a Scottish minster on the success of a free bus travel scheme for young people.

The Senedd’s petitions committee took evidence on the feasibility of Wales following Scotland’s lead by making buses free for under-22s.

MSs quizzed Transport Scotland officials about the Scottish Government’s free bus pass for children and young people aged five to 21, which was introduced in January 2022.

Petitioners, Wales’ children’s commissioner, and the Welsh Youth Parliament have all added their voices to a chorus of calls for a similar free travel scheme in recent years.

Gillian Kelly, from Transport Scotland, said the smartcard encourages younger generations to develop sustainable travel habits early, contributing to efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

Ms Kelly told Senedd members the free bus pass also helps reduce child poverty by improving access to education and healthcare.

Ms Kelly said the Scottish scheme has so far cost £249m, which is mostly made up of the cost of reimbursing bus companies with the rates negotiated annually with the industry.

Paul White, director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport Scotland, the trade association for the bus and coach sector, described the scheme as fantastic, adding that bus operators are left no worse off, with Transport Scotland committing to paying for journeys.

Carole Stewart, head of bus strategy at Transport Scotland, said an evaluation of the first year found positive progress towards long-term policy goals.

She told the meeting on 18 March that the pass has opened opportunities for young people to access universities, colleges, apprenticeships and employment.

Mr White added that Scotland has experienced a drop in travel via concessionary schemes for older and disabled people, with passenger numbers at 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

“The free travel scheme has essentially plugged that hole,” he said.

Ms Stewart said Scotland has seen an uptick in antisocial behaviour on buses but the majority of young people use the offer with respect for drivers and other passengers.

The industry representative said a lesson learned was the need for clear processes of engagement between police and bus operators to tackle problem hotspots.