The Travel Barrier: The case for half price bus and rail fares for all students and apprentices

NUS Scotland publishes new report estimating 311,000 students are ineligible for free bus travel whilst the cost of public transport has affected 32% of students’ ability to eat a meal. 

Read the full report here.


NUS Scotland has published a report on public transport that found that the cost of transport can act as a barrier to accessing education or employment. 

Currently, everyone under the age of 22 in Scotland can access free bus travel with their Young Scot National Entitlement card. However, NUS Scotland say that this is not enough, as the majority (55%) of students are 22 or over, and cannot afford the cost of travel. 

Following their Cost of Survival report, published in February this year, that found that the cost of public transport had caused 21% of students to miss class and a further 7% to miss placement, NUS Scotland’s Travel Barrier report has found that the cost of travel has prevented a third of young people from accessing education, whilst more still say it inhibits their educational choices. 

The report also found that the cost of bus travel has increased by 60% since 2012, far ahead of student loans, wages and inflation. 

NUS Scotland says that half price bus and rail fares for all students and apprentices would help students be able to afford to travel to their classes, as well as make education more accessible by allowing students to make choices about where they go to university or college based on which institution suits them best, rather than the place they can afford to travel to.  

The report also argues that half price bus and rail fares for students will help to make Scotland greener, by encouraging the 13,000 students who choose cars over public transport because of expense to switch to public transport. 

The report was published simultaneously with NUS UK’s Move It report, based on a survey of 3,746 students, 700 of which were from Scotland. NUS UK found that: 

  • The cost of travel has affected 32% of students’ ability to eat a meal and 29%’s ability to buy necessities for their course such as stationary or books 
  • 60% of students had missed out on socialising with friends because they could not afford to travel there, as well as 35% missing visiting family 
  • 52% are concerned about the cost of travel, including 24% who are “very concerned”.  


Commenting, NUS Scotland President, Ellie Gomersall, said: 

“Public transport is becoming more expensive but less reliable. Students across the country are telling us how they have to leave their homes up to 2 hours early to get to their classes on time because buses will be too overcrowded to let anyone else on, and others simply don’t turn up. 

“When 28% of students have missed class or placement because they could not afford the cost of travel, it is clear that something needs to be done to make our education system more accessible to those on lower incomes. 

“The misconception that students are all school leavers is harming us. The majority of students are 22 or over, making us ineligible for free bus travel, and leaving us to pay extortionate travel fares on minimal income.  

“Free bus travel for under 22s is great, but it does not help the majority of students who are aged 22 or over, or anyone who catches a train to class.  

“We are calling on the Scottish Government to make bus and trains half price for all students so that a student never again has to choose between eating and attending their classes.” 

Recent responses

Our Partners

Enable Recite Me accessibility tools