Bus services outside London need own strategy, committee urges

Bus services outside London should be more reliable and better funded to halt the decline in people using them, a new parliamentary report has found.

In its report on bus services outside London, the House of Commons Transport Committee criticised the government for not having the same long-term plan for bus services as it does for other forms of transport such as rail and road.

The Committee has urged the government to create a new bus strategy that will encourage more people to get out of their cars and travel by bus.

The Committee said: ‘Without buses people would not be able to get to work, places of education, healthcare appointments or travel for leisure or social reasons.

‘However, in most parts of England bus use is falling and hundreds of bus routes have been withdrawn. This has direct consequences for people’s lives.’

Buses remain a vital part of Britain’s transport network, accounting for almost three in five journeys made by public transport in Great Britain in 2017-18.

However, bus use across England has long been in decline as people increasingly switch to cars or other forms of public transport.

Several key problems the committee identified with bus services outside of London include patchy, unreliable services, inconsistent operation models, and uncertainty among councils and operators over government funding in the long-term.

A lack of co-ordination between planning and transport teams in local councils means that new housing developments do not have options for bus travel built in, leaving them without adequate public transport access, it found.

While the committee conceded it is ‘unlikely’ the government will offer more funding for bus services, it stressed that current funding, such as the Bus Service Operators Grant, must be used wisely to increase bus use.

Investment in initiatives such as low carbon buses will not work unless the government acts to tackle key issues behind the trend of decline such as service reliability, the committee warned.

‘If this trend continues not only will it make it difficult for those who use the bus the most—and particularly those who, for economic, social or health reasons, have no alternative—it will have both economic and environmental impacts,’ it said.

‘It would reduce economic growth and make congestion and air quality worse as people move from buses to cars and taxis.’

Daniel Carey-Dawes, infrastructure policy manager at the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), supported the committee’s call for a national bus strategy to prevent further cutbacks in services.

‘As we seek to reduce our carbon emissions and tackle rural isolation, it’s only right that the government establish a long term plan for the future of the nation’s most popular form of public transport,’ Carey-Dawes said.

The government now has two months to respond to the Transport Committee’s report.


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