Buses are at the heart of the nation’s economic and social life. Before the pandemic 5.8 million people used them 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 our plans to put first at the heart of transport networks here.
Bus operators have led the way in decarbonising road transport and have invested £2 billion in new cleaner, greener buses over the last five years.
Although getting more people travelling by bus is the best way for the transport sector to help meet the Government’s targets on improving air quality and fight the climate emergency the industry wants to continue to lead the way on decarbonisation of vehicles.
The pandemic has meant it is more challenging for operators to make upfront investment in new vehicles. Therefore, to help meet the Prime Minister’s vision for 4000 new zero emission buses we have proposed a leasing model, with government funding already earmarked for buses being used immediately to enable bus operators to invest in their fleets.
You can read more about our plans here.
The Covid-19 pandemic will accelerate the changes already underway in working and travel patterns, which impact the bus services passengers will need. Operators will need to adapt their networks to meet these new demands and ensure passenger numbers return and grow.
The industry’s Recovery Partnerships model builds on the positive relationships developed between operators and local authorities during the pandemic. It enables them to agree locally how to deliver a bus network that meets the needs of passengers and delivers sustainable growth in passenger numbers.
Read more about our plans here.
Bus operators, government and bus passengers all want the same things - a joined up, integrated network, fast and reliable journeys, simple fares and ticketing and clean, well-equipped buses. These outcomes are most effectively delivered where operators and local transport authorities (LTAs) work in partnership without council tax payers having to take on the risk and cost of council control.
Where these partnerships are established we see a clear increase in passengers numbers. For example, in Merseyside the Bus Alliance has delivered 15% increase in fare-paying passengers since 2013-14 and the number of bus journeys taken by young people rise by 168%. In Bristol the bus partnership has seen passenger numbers grow by 52% since 2013.
The industry’s bus strategy Moving Forward Together has further examples of partnership working, read it in full here.
Bus travel can support communities and deliver a more vibrant and inclusive society, and in rural areas buses are often a vital lifeline to communities. However in some rural areas the realistic frequency of bus services is unlikely to be able to meet the needs of residents.
We need to rethink rural transport provision with a partnership approach between LTAs, other public bodies, public transport operators and community groups to prevent social exclusion and increased car dependence where bus plays a role but is not the only solution.
Passengers want clear and simple ticketing.
The industry recognises this and bus operators are working together to develop multi-operator ticketing and will continue to invest in digital solutions, making it easier for people to use buses and promoting seamless travel between public transport providers.
You can find out about our latest campaigns here.