Bus patronage recovery rate jumps after more schools reopen

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Bus patronage in Britain outside London saw further recovery in early September as educational establishments in England and Wales reopened, figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) have shown.

Measured as a percentage of the equivalent day on the third week of January, usage was 50% on Friday 4 September. That was the first time the 50% threshold had been reached on a weekday since 20 March. Growth was sustained the following week, with daily equivalent volumes of 54%, 57% and 55% from Monday 7 September onwards. Figures for Thursday 10 September and beyond are not yet available.

Notably, the 55% reported on Wednesday 9 September is an 11 percentage points increase over the previous Wednesday.

The uptick has brought weekday bus patronage recovery into line with that at weekends. Since July, Saturday and Sunday bus usage as an equivalent percentage had been above that on working days. At 59%, Sunday 30 August remains the high water point thus far since recovery from the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic began.

The recent rise also brings the recovery of weekday bus ridership in Britain outside London largely into line with that in the capital. Although DfT uses a different metric to measure usage there, the most recent data shows that the average in other areas has come to within one percentage point of equivalent ridership levels on Transport for London (TfL) services.

Prior to that, bus patronage recovery in London had been proceeding more quickly than in the remainder of Britain. The highest equivalent weekday figure seen in the capital since March has been 58%. TfL services have recorded an equivalent figure of 61% on two recent Saturdays.

Equivalent bus patronage in Britain outside London bottomed out at 10% on several days during the early stage of the pandemic.

Recovery in rail passenger numbers remains well below that seen on bus services. Overall car usage has seen no major change since schools and colleges in England and Wales reopened.