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May 22 2019
By Jessamy Chapman

MPs call for government
strategy to halt bus decline

Lilian Greenwood: ‘It is time to bring forward a strategy for bus services’

The government must set out a bus strategy to halt the decline in bus use, says the House of Commons’ Transport Committee.

The Committee has today (Wednesday) released a report blaming a lack of co-ordinated government policy and squeezed funding for local authorities for the decline in bus patronage.

Reform needed

Called Bus Services in England outside London, the report highlights that most parts of England have seen bus use fall, and hundreds of routes withdrawn.

The Committee urges the Government to release a single bus strategy by the end of 2020 to set out how it will support local authorities to improve bus services, allowing all operating models, including franchising and the ability to create new municipal companies.

It also calls for funding reform, with long-term plans in place similar to those for road and rail investment, that should include a more stable multi-year funding model.

The government should set and track targets for modal shift and provide guidance for LAs to encourage it, it says.

Given the scale of investment from passengers and taxpayers, the Committee also calls for “a fairer deal for the bus user, demonstrating value for money and reflecting passengers’ needs.”

‘No evidence’

The Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, says: “More than 3,000 bus routes in England have been reduced, altered or withdrawn since 2010-11.

“The numbers using bus services are falling. This has direct consequences on people’s lives, impacting on journeys to work, education and social events.

“It narrows our transport options and pushes us towards less environmentally-friendly choices. And yet, our inquiry found no real evidence that the Government was determined to take action to stop this.

“Transport groups told us that passengers want simple and accurate information on ticketing and fares and reliable services that turn up on time and get you where you need to go.

“We heard a real desire to reduce congestion and to improve air quality. Local authorities and bus operators want to work together, whether to understand local traffic to better use bus priority measures, enforce moving traffic violations or plan for new housing developments.

“The Government has strategies on rail investment and road development; it is now time to bring forward a strategy for bus services outside London.

“Core to the strategy should be the desire to make bus services more passenger focused and provide value for money, helping to bring more people, especially young people, onboard. This will also bring benefits for air quality, cutting carbon emissions and reducing congestion.

“The Department for Transport has a key role in supporting local authorities and bus operators but it needs to ensure its efforts are pulled together under a single strategy which sets out its ambition for bus services, still England’s most popular form of transport.

“Concessionary fares are obviously important in making public transport affordable and our Committee hopes to assist by exploring this area in more detail later this year.”

As a Londoner the main problem seems to be the effect of congestion on reliability and duration of journey. Nationwide I believe that government and local authorities must ensure that concessionary travel is profitable for the operator even where nearly all the passengers are benefiting from concessions. As time progresses more and more travellers will be senior citizens.
David Pearson

Millbrook 2019