Bus patronage return continues; 82% reported by one operator

Bus patronage return continues, figures show

One bus operator has seen fare paying passenger numbers on its commercial services in April recover to as high as 82% of the pre-pandemic level, figures on patronage return released by industry managers’ group the Ten Per Cent Club have shown.

While that is described as “hugely encouraging” by Club Secretary Roger French, further data collated by the group has illustrated the scale of variation in recovery across the country. The operator above is in an urban area in the North of England. Another in an urban area in the South has seen a return in the same category during April of 47%.

That aside, the Ten Per Cent Club’s data shows that fare paying passenger volumes across its members’ commercial services have surpassed the level seen in autumn 2020. On average, the final week of April saw those passengers measured at 62% of a typical week, against the 60% seen in September and October 2020.

The Ten Per Cent Club’s report comes against a backdrop of Department for Transport (DfT) data – which utilise a different methodology – confirming that bus patronage in Britain grew strongly in the second half of April. Weekday and weekend usage rose generally as quickly as each other when measured by DfT.

In the month’s final two weeks, weekday ridership outside London exceeded 60% on six occasions. For the final two weekends of April, patronage consistently exceeded 50% for the first time since Saturday 20 December 2020.

The capital witnessed consistent percentage returns in the high-50s or better for the three latter weeks of April, with a peak of 63% on 20 April.

Data collected from Ten Per Cent Club members has also shown that concessionary passholder usage on commercial services in April was 46% of normal. That is up significantly from March’s 31%.

On tendered services, bus patronage return is proceeding similarly. In April the level of fare payers on those routes was 51% and concessionary passholders was 43%. Both are up significantly from 40% and 29% respectively in March.

Mr French adds that the Club now wishes to see social distancing measures on vehicles removed soon to erase instances where full buses at busy times are dissuading customers from travelling. His thoughts echo those from another member of the bus industry. They have aired concern that leaving passengers behind because the maximum usable capacity has been reached risks doing serious harm to those customers’ desire to use the bus again.