Bus patronage in England outside London could rise by 425m journeys per year by 2024/25 if government money already allocated to buses in those areas is spent correctly, research commissioned by Greener Journeys has shown.
Earlier in 2020 Prime Minister Boris Johnson committed to making available £5bn for buses, cycling and active travel. £2bn of that has since been allocated to the latter two modes. But if £2bn of the remainder is invested in bus networks, it will have major environmental and societal benefits, says the report compiled by KPMG.
The research says that if such a funding allocation were to happen, each local authority area in England outside London could expect to see bus patronage grow by 20%. Every £1 invested would generate £4.48 in wider benefits, the report continues.
Additionally, if the funding was balanced between infrastructure and services, Greener Journeys believes that it would be possible to for bus patronage levels in underperforming areas to rise to those that are already seen in locations where usage is buoyant.
The report concludes that 60-70% of the £2bn should go towards infrastructure projects and the remainder to support services and fares.
Greener Journeys has also called on the government to adopt a “more positive” message around public transport and to encourage people to use it responsibly.
Says Chief Executive Claire Haigh: “The Prime Minister may have dropped the ‘avoid public transport’ message, but he is still encouraging people to use alternative means where possible. That will not be enough to restart the economy. The fundamental role of mass transport in facilitating economic activity is as essential as it ever was.
“We need a green recovery. That will require a massive shift from private transport to public modes and shared and active travel. The forthcoming National Bus Strategy must maximise the potential of the bus to tackle pollution, reduce social deprivation and reignite the economy.”
The most recent data supplied by the Department for Transport shows that bus patronage in the UK since the onset of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has not exceeded 33% of its equivalent pre-pandemic figure on any weekday.