MORE than 1.3 million journeys have been made by North Ayrshire youngsters since the introduction of free bus travel for under-22s over a year ago.

And the region has the third-highest uptake for the scheme among those eligible when compared with the rest of Scotland's local authorities.

Everyone in Scotland under the age of 22, everyone 60 and over, and disabled people and companions are entitled to free bus travel under the Scottish Government’s concessionary bus travel schemes brought in around 13 months ago.

More than two million people nationwide are eligible for free travel under the schemes, and transport minister Jenny Gilruth said it was “really encouraging that over 50 million free bus journeys have now been made by under-22s across Scotland”.

Ms Gilruth said evidence from the Child Poverty Action Group had shown “free bus travel can save a total of £3,000 in the lifetime cost of a child in Scotland”.

In North Ayrshire, 1,307,128 journeys have been made by 18,616 cardholders and uptake against the estimated eligible population in the area is 81.7 per cent - behind only Inverclyde (89 per cent) and City of Edinburgh (89.4 per cent).

In neighbouring East Ayrshire, more journeys (1,409,616) have been made but uptake is 74.7 per cent, while the rate in South Ayrshire is just 53.3 per cent and only 626,539 journeys have been made.

Patrick Harvie, active travel minister, said: “Fifty million free journeys made by under-22s is a big landmark and part of an even bigger effort to promote public transport and walking, wheeling and cycling as the easiest ways to get around.”

Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said the scheme had “created a wealth of new opportunities for young people to access education, work, training and leisure activities, with more young people using bus services as a result”.

Across Scotland there are 590,178 card holders as of the week beginning March 6, according to the government, who said this would mean 63.5 per cent of those eligible have signed up.

Kenneth Gibson, Cunninghame North SNP MSP said: “It is really encouraging that over 1.3m free bus journeys have been made in North Ayrshire since free bus travel was introduced over a year ago.

“I am particularly pleased that uptake in North Ayrshire is now so high, with more than eight in 10 eligible people signed up.

“For my part, I successfully urged North Ayrshire Council on the first day the new SNP administration took over to enable young people to sign up at school for concessionary passes, given that uptake then was only 16.7 per cent.

“I then secured agreement from Ayrshire College to do likewise, enabling young people from the local area to access education, work, training and leisure activities at no cost.

“The impact of the new concessionary has also been to boost the viability of bus services by providing additional passengers and revenue at a time when – post Covid – fewer older people are travelling than was the case before the pandemic.

“Thankfully, that situation is now steadily improving.”

For more information about the under-22s bus pass scheme, visit