July 05 2024

Graham Vidler, CEO for the Confederation of Passenger Transport says,  

“The new government has a huge opportunity to use bus and coach services to deliver its key priorities including economic growth, decarbonisation, and relief from recent inflation as well as its targets to shift people away from private car journeys and towards more sustainable public transport. To realise these goals ministers must drive forward policies that help bus operators and local authorities put the right services on the road for local communities. 

“Stable long-term investment in the bus sector will be critical, but immediate action must prevent a cliff edge return to fully commercial fares when the £2 fare cap ends in December – a scenario that would harm passengers and services.  

“CPT will also work with ministers and local transport authorities to share lessons from the early adopters of bus franchising - to help ensure success in other areas that choose this path. It will continue working too with the many local transport authorities that want to retain a partnership model to deliver more services that are regular, fast, punctual, and more popular. 

“For the coach sector the government must work strenuously to ensure the EU Entry/Exit System due to take effect in October does not damage international coach travel. It must also bring forward clear guidance for local transport authorities to include coach in their transport plans and give coaches fair access to all areas (including clean air zones) as part of efforts to curb air pollution and to help unlock the sector’s enormous potential to decarbonise personal travel.  

“To address persistent shortages of coach and bus drivers, ministers are urged to deliver promptly the proposals about driver training made earlier this year by the Department for Transport, and to ensure the future of both sectors we urge them to work with us to develop and bring forward an effective national workforce strategy."



Notes for editors  

Buses play a pivotal role in keeping our economy moving and our communities connected. They are the nation’s most affordable, accessible, and popular form of public transport - carrying over 10.2 million passengers every day and making up more than half (60%) of all public transport journeys.  Coaches transport 500 million passengers across the country every year, contribute £14bn to the tourism economy, and deliver vital services, not least home-to-school, rail replacement and vulnerable group transport. For more data on the value of bus and coach see CPT’s website. 

Recent polling by You Gov for CPT showed that spending is way below what many voters clearly think it should be:  four in ten voters want investment in bus services to be made a top priority for transport spending by the new government. People also want to see more frequent buses, fares kept low, and more new routes. What is more, these three priorities matter significantly more than changing who runs the buses, and if services improve many people will use the bus more often – a shift that will reduce road congestion and cut air pollution.  

Labour’s recently published plan for rail services includes a commitment to introduce modal shift targets (a change from one form of transportation to another, in this case away from private car usage and towards the greater use of all public transport modes). CPT will be looking to the new government to help its members to deliver their part of this transition.  

CPT will continue to call for a five-year spending plan for bus, as happens in rail, to provide confidence and maximise the value of all investment in the sector. Consolidated, consistent long term funding streams will be key for securing full decarbonisation of the bus sector fleet.  The current 21-month funding settlement for bus services ends in April 2025. A lack of clarity over future funding undermines confidence and prevents operators and local transport authorities (LTAs) pursuing longer-term service developments.  

Some bus services cannot be run on a commercial basis, so CPT believes the new Government needs to fund councils to support essential lifeline services - over half (56%) of which have been lost since 2009/10 due to cuts in local government funding.  

CPT and its members will work with local leaders whatever the regulatory model. Many local leaders – such as those in Leicester, Portsmouth, and Norfolk - are already shaping the delivery of better bus services by working closely with bus operators through the contractual arrangements available under Enhanced Partnerships.  

Earlier this year CPT commissioned research to inform discussion about options for maintaining low fares over the long term. Alternatives to the national fare cap – how can the next government make bus travel more affordable for more people presents the findings of that study which examined the pros and cons of various forms of support including a continued fare cap. 

In April CPT welcomed DfT (Department for Transport) proposals to speed up training for bus and coach drivers and to lower the minimum age for them to drive longer journeys. To help address ongoing driver shortages (4.2% in the bus sector and nearly 6% among coach operators) the government should bring these changed forward promptly.  

Driving Britain ForwardCPT’s manifesto for bus set out six key priorities for the next government: 

  • Maximise the value for money of its investment by announcing a five-year spending plan, as happens in rail.   
  • Continue to support passengers from January 2025 with a package of targeted measures that support sustainable modal shift. 
  • Set and monitor a target for all local transport authorities to increase bus speeds by 10% over the lifetime of the next parliament. (Councils in the north and midlands can use existing capital funding streams to invest in bus priority measures; the next government will need to ensure southern councils also have access to capital funding to deliver bus priority in their areas). 
  • Work with the sector and councils to adopt a simple definition of essential services into legislation and, over time, fund councils to invest in missing services.   
  • Announce a five-year £1 billion investment programme to leverage more private sector investment in new vehicles (to put the UK on track to a zero-emission fleet by the middle of the next decade). 
  • Put full support behind an industry-led strategy to develop the workforce the sector needs to grow and to prepare for the zero-emission future. 

Access All Areas CPT’s manifesto for coach set out five key priorities for the next government: 

  • Issue clear guidance to councils to include coach services in their local transport plans (LTPs) giving an economic and environmental boost to communities across the country 
  • View coaches as part of the solution to local air pollution making it easier for coaches to serve passengers in cities with clean air zones 
  • Simplify the legislation on accessible travel giving disabled passengers a clear and consistent service and operators clarity over vehicle requirements 
  • Work with industry on a net zero strategy for coaches giving operators the confidence to plan investment in future fleets 
  • Support an industry-led workforce strategy training the drivers and engineers needed to grow the industry and transition to zero emission operation