Bus campaign group, Greener Journeys, has heralded what it calls a ‘bus renaissance’. It cites official Government figures showing passenger numbers have been growing in certain towns and cities, particularly more affluent parts of the south. It claims this is bucking the trend of long term decline across the UK as a whole. A new report by the LowCVP, commissioned by Greener Journeys, highlights how bus services in many of the regions experiencing the biggest growth in bus patronage, including Bristol (19% increase from 2009/10 to 2015/16), Reading (17%) Milton Keynes (15%) and Oxfordshire (12%), have benefited from investment and prioritisation by local councils in partnership with operators. The report, entitled ‘Any Journey is Greener by Bus’, said the boost is not just limited to the south, with York more recently experiencing a 7% increase in bus usage since 2011/12, the equivalent of an extra 600,000 passenger journeys per year.
Popular improvements on buses identified by the report include cleaner vehicle technology, real time travel information, integrated ticketing, free Wi-Fi and charging, improved seating, shorter journey times, better routing and bus priority measures such as bus lanes. The report said, ‘Over the last ten years, bus use has grown in the South West and South East of England, suggesting that the balance between private and shared travel for those living in the wealthiest, most congested, parts of the country may be gradually shifting in favour of the bus. “Peak car” may not yet be widespread, but there could be signs of its emergence here.’
A separate survey of over 800 passengers across the UK found that convenience is the most common reason to choose the bus for their journey, with 57% of respondents naming it as a key factor. However, in the south east and south west, the regions where bus usage increased overall, passengers were more likely to cite avoiding traffic (30%) and environmental benefits (28%) as a main reason for travelling by bus than the national average (22% and 20% of passengers respectively).
Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, Claire Haigh, said, ‘This new report clearly shows that investment in buses, and prioritisation of bus networks, can reap real rewards by increasing passenger numbers and taking more cars off the road, with all the economic, social and environmental benefits that brings. We would encourage councils and operators across the UK to look at the innovative services, measures for tackling congestion and clean bus technology detailed in this report as a model for raising usage and sparking their own bus renaissance.’