Buses are at the heart of the nation’s economic and social life. 5.8 million people use buses every day and they ensure people can get to work, school or college and connect with friends and family. They also add over £85 billion to our economy and have a vital role in helping fight climate change and improve air quality.
Here is what’s needed to enable bus operators to continue to offer the bus services millions of people need.
Buses are vital in supporting economic growth and delivering environmental targets such as net zero by 2050. However, all too often buses are stuck in congestion which means fewer people use the bus and in turn add to the number of vehicles on our roads making congestion even worse.
Investment in bus priority by central government and local authorities giving buses the priority they deserve in the transport network will be vital in delivering economic growth, reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality.
You can read more about the importance of bus priority measures here.
With a fully loaded bus capable of removing up to 75 cars off the road, encouraging more people out of their cars and onto the bus will deliver significant environmental benefits. If everyone took just one more bus journey a month we would reduce the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2 million tonnes a year.1 Negative messaging during the pandemic led to an increase in private car use, a trend which if allowed to continue would seriously undermine any efforts for the UK to be carbon neutral by 2050.
A reduction in car use would also deliver lower nitrogen oxide emissions and significantly improve air quality - the Centre for Research and Clean Air has calculated that, during April 2020, the drastic reduction in private car usage led to a reduction in deaths of around 1,700 as a result of improved air quality.
Nonetheless, the industry recognises that the future of urban road transport lies with zero emission vehicles, and operators are committed to transitioning their fleets.
Bus operators welcomed the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) fund and have worked with local transport authorities on bids for funding to support the purchase of zero emission buses and the required infrastructure.
It is vital that Government now provides the industry and local authorities with visibility over future support for the rollout of zero emission vehicles to enable longer term, joined up planning and investment to take place. Furthermore, a zero-emission bus option with sufficient range is not yet available for all duty cycles and the Government should continue to support the development of new longer range zero emission vehicles through the Faraday Institute and Advanced Propulsion Centre to ensure there is a full range of zero emission buses available.
Any eventual zero emission targets for bus must be realistic and recognise the unique and different challenges operators face regarding infrastructure, funding and technological development.
It is also important to recognise that zero emission buses are unable to deliver increased passenger numbers and net zero emissions by themselves. With bus and coach only representing 3% of transport emissions, encouraging more people from their private cars to the bus is going to be key to ensuring we stay on track to deliver the country’s net zero goals.
A pro-bus message from government coupled with the introduction of bus priority measures to deliver quicker, more reliable services will be vital in encouraging more people to use the bus. This will deliver a sustainable business model to allow further investment in services and zero emission buses and will ensure the ambitions of the National Bus Strategy are delivered.
In May 2021, the government launched their National Bus Strategy, Bus Back Better, which called for collaboration and shared commitment between local authorities and bus operators to delivering better services for passengers.
CPT are supportive of the strategy, which created an opportunity to change how we travel and encourage behaviour away from the private car and towards the bus. The objectives set out in the strategy largely match those outlined in our bus strategy, Moving forward together, which seeks to grow passenger numbers and deliver quicker, more reliable journeys.
Bus Service Improvement Plans and Enhanced Partnerships:
The strategy called for local authorities and bus operators to establish Enhanced Partnerships, unless pursuing franchising, and were required to submit Bus Service Improvement Plans by October 2021 that set out how the Enhanced Partnership would deliver improvements to bus services in their areas. The Enhanced Partnerships also set out the framework for local authorities and bus operators to access any future government funding.
There has been good partnership working between local authorities and bus operators across the country to produce ambitious Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs). This process has demonstrated how effective these partnerships can be and we are pleased at the number of local authorities who have recognised that a collaborative approach will deliver improvements to bus services for passengers more quickly, efficiently and economically than through a franchising model.
Whilst we welcome the first tranche of funding to deliver these ambitious plans, it is going to be crucial that the Government now commits to future rounds of bus funding that will deliver the aspirations outlined in all BSIPs across the country. This will ensure that all passengers, regardless of their location, will benefit from better bus services and will avoid creating a two-tier system which risks disconnecting passengers, particularly in more remote, rural areas.
The National Bus Strategy calls for a simpler, more integrated approach to ticketing, which will enable passengers to purchase one ticket which will be accepted across multiple services.
The industry recognises this and bus operators are working together to develop a multi-operator ticketing solution which will make it easier for people to use the bus and will provide seamless, connected travel across public transport providers.