Buses are at the heart of the nation’s economic and social life. They carry out over 10.6m passenger journeys every day and are vital to local economies, providing access to work, education, healthcare, and leisure opportunities; they are also essential to ensuring social inclusion and are the most effective and fairest way of working towards net zero targets.
Below, are the measures required that will enable bus operators to continue to offer the bus services millions of people need:
We welcomed the 21-month funding settlement that Government confirmed this year. However, the sector requires a five-year settlement (in line with the rail sector) that will give bus operators and local transport authorities the confidence to plan longer term bus investment whilst continuing to deliver good services for passengers.
We have also welcomed the additional £930m BSIP (Bus Service Improvement Plan) funding provided for areas of the North of England and Midlands in October following the reconfiguration of the HS2 budget, but this needs to be matched across the country. Levelling up communities should not be discriminatory and areas in the East and South should not miss out on the opportunity to invest in local buses due to the knock-on effect of a decision taken in another part of the transport sector. Frequent, fast, reliable buses are required by people across the country to get to work, school, and to access essential services, this should not be a postcode lottery based on the cancelled HS2 route.
We will work hard to make the case for buses to receive their fair share of the City Regional Sustainable Transport Settlements (CRSTS) and Local Integrated Transport Settlements (LITS) when these come online (2027/28 and 2025/26 respectively).
Buses are vital to connect local communities, support economic growth and deliver environmental targets such as net zero carbon by 2050. However, all too often buses are stuck in congestion, which means fewer people use the bus and, by turning to their car, add to the number of vehicles on our roads making congestion even worse.
Investment in bus priority measures by central government and local authorities is vital to deliver the fast, reliable and frequent bus services that passengers want and deserve.
We would like to see the next Government commit to increasing the speed of buses by 10% over the next Parliament, reflected in local targets and BSIPs and backed by fair and sufficient funding across the country. Keeping buses out of congestion can ensure that passengers have fast and reliable journeys no matter where they live. You can read more about the importance of bus priority measures here.
Buses are already a green and sustainable travel option, with one fully loaded double deck bus capable of removing up to 75 cars off the road. Encouraging more people onto the bus is going to be key in delivering the country’s net zero goals, however, this does not mean that everyone must give up their cars; small changes made to how we travel can deliver big improvements to our environment and the nation's health. Everyone swapping just two car trips a month to the bus would save nearly 15.8 million tonnes of CO2e by 2050, equivalent to the total emissions of the North East in 2019. This would;
To read more about the benefits achieved by modal shift, read our Decarbonisation Dividend here.
Despite buses and coaches being responsible for just 3% of transport emissions, the industry recognises that the future of urban road transport lies with zero emission vehicles, and operators are committed to transitioning their fleets. Large bus operators have voluntarily put in place their own targets for transitioning their fleets to zero emissions, and we predict that by 2025, over two thirds of new bus purchases in England will be zero emission, provided there is sufficient government support.
We are supportive of the funding made available through the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas Scheme and operators are working collaboratively with Local Authorities to secure funding and invest in zero emission buses.
It is now vital that Government provides the industry and local authorities with visibility over any future support for the rollout of zero emission vehicles to enable longer term, joined up planning and investment to take place. This will allow operators to decarbonise their fleet whilst also growing the sector’s net zero bus manufacturing capability and export potential.
Furthermore, a zero-emission bus option with sufficient range is not yet available for all duty cycles. 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.
Most importantly, we will not meet our net zero carbon targets if we do not switch some car journeys to walking, cycling and public transport. It is therefore vital that we increase the number of people who choose to travel by bus. By introducing bus priority measures, bus journey speeds and reliability will increase which will encourage more passengers on board and reduce operating costs. An increase in passenger numbers will help develop the business case needed for operators to reinvest in delivering greener, better services.
Bus travel has always been an affordable way to travel, particularly for regular commuters. In recent years, operators have built on this value with new ticketing options to cater for post-pandemic travel patterns and have worked with government to deliver a two-year national £2 fare cap.
New research for CPT shows though that there are a wide range of trade-offs to consider as government reviews its £350m plus annual investment into the fare cap. In considering the balance between different policy goals such as net zero, economic growth and managing the cost of living it is likely that there will be better value-for-money ways of helping passengers.
The next government should continue to support passengers from January 2025 with a
package of targeted measures that support sustainable modal shift.
The transition to zero emission buses is challenging for all bus operators, however the challenge is even greater for operators of rural services. These services tend to cover longer distances, over hilly terrain, and current battery electric vehicles do not always deliver sufficient range for these routes. Whilst hydrogen can deliver greater range, there are concerns over the affordability and availability of hydrogen. Additionally, the business cases for rural services differ to those in urban locations making the vehicles even harder to afford.
To help overcome these challenges we established the Rural Zero Emission Bus Taskforce, which brings together operators, manufacturers, local authorities, energy and infrastructure providers to collate data and evidence to highlight the challenges and determine what is needed for the sector to overcome them. The Taskforce is due to report its findings in early 2024.
Transport poverty should not exist; everyone, regardless of where they live and what they earn, should have access to buses to ensure they can access better work opportunities, healthcare, education and leisure & social activities. We believe that Socially and Economically Necessary Services should therefore be put on a Statutory footing. Local Transport Authorities being legally required to provide these services, backed by the funding needed to deliver them, would ensure the long term security of many bus routes that are vital for communities, particularly in rural and hard to reach areas.
There are 84,000 bus drivers in the UK.
The availability of drivers is a crucial factor for operators in order to recover from the pandemic and grow the network. Latest CPT research reveals there is currently a 5.9% vacancy rate across the UK.
To help address the issues which face operators, CPT has launched a recruitment and retention handbook, to support bus and coach operators, whose growth is being held back due to driver shortages. The expert guidance, created exclusively for CPT members, is aimed at supporting bus and coach operators in the recruitment, training and retention of drivers.
CPT and the Department for Transport also co-chaired a Bus and Coach Driver Shortage Summit in November 2022. Separately, CPT launched a driver recruitment campaign entitled Thank You Driver, with research showing that being thanked is one of the most rewarding parts of their role.
88% of bus drivers are male. CPT is part of TFL’s Women in Bus and Coach initiative which is designed to encourage more women into the profession.
CPT continues to pursue several other policy measures including enabling trainee drivers to undertake the off-road elements of the vocational licence acquisition whilst their provisional licence is being processed.