‘Unchecked congestion will destroy bus sector’

Greener Journeys lays bare the worrying issue of rising congestion on Britain’s bus industry

A report from Greener Journeys and written by leading transport academic Professor David Begg has issued a stark warning that if left unchecked, congestion could “destroy the bus sector.”

Journey times are increasing by an average of 1% per annum, says report

Titled The impact of congestion on bus passengers, the report pulls no punches. “This is a dire and sensational prediction, but evidence uncovered by research leads to no other conclusion.

“On historical, current and future trends, it’s a case of when, not if,” says Prof Begg. He adds that bus journey times are rising by an average of 1% per year in the UK’s most congested urban areas.

“If the trend is allowed to continue, then our urban buses will no longer represent a viable mode of transport for the majority of their customers and will be populated largely by people with mobility difficulties.”

Prof Begg says that, had buses been protected from the impact of congestion over the last 50 years, there would be between 48-70% more fare paying passenger journeys on today’s networks. On the UK’s urban rail systems, where average speeds have remained constant since 1966, there has been a substantial rise in patronage.

The cost of congestion on the UK’s economy is £11bn per year, says the report. Prof Begg adds that it ranks with increasing car ownership and migration of retail activity to out-of-town areas as one of the three “most powerful headwinds” facing the bus industry.

When bus journey times increase, both mitigation options available to operators are likely to result in a loss of patronage, says the report.

Every 10% decrease in operating speeds leads to an 8% increase in operating costs, which, if passed on via the farebox, results in a 5.6% fall in patronage. Alternatively, a 10% reduction in frequency sees a 5% drop in passenger numbers.

“Too little focus is placed on the importance of the bus because users carry too little weight with opinion-formers and political decision-makers,” says Prof Begg, who points out that while fuel duty has been frozen for six years, BSOG has been cut by 20% over the same period.

The report advocates adoption of contactless and smartcard payment systems and radical bus priority. It also notes that “without road pricing, there is no solution to urban congestion.”

Read the full report at bit.ly/1PD6vpi