Buses ‘under threat’ from congestion . . .

Buses are ‘under threat’ from growing congestion on Britain’s roads, according to research commissioned by Greener Journeys. The research suggests that journey times are rising on bus services and passengers are forced to seek alternative modes of transport. The first part of the study, ‘The Impact of Congestion on Bus Passengers’, by Professor David Begg, found that online shopping deliveries and the rise of Uber have contributed to growing congestion.

In the updated study, it was found bus journey times in the West Midlands have increased by 8% over the past seven years. Passenger numbers in Glasgow have fallen by 22% in a decade, equal to 49m fewer passenger journeys. Bus speeds have fallen below 10mph in Oxford, which has one of the nation’s highest levels of bus usage. It was also discovered that journey times on some routes in Gloucestershire have risen by 90% in the past 25 years. In contrast, Prof Begg found that effective bus priority measures in Dublin have helped the city limit the devastating impact of congestion, with average bus speeds falling by just 0.4% last year, compared with the national UK average of 1%. The report also warns that traffic on the roads is expected to grow by up to 55% by 2040 across the UK, and that if journey times continue to decline at their current rate, bus passenger numbers will drop by between 10% and 14% every ten years.

The report says that official targets for average bus speeds and the national introduction of contactless payments by 2019, three years earlier than planned, could help to ease congestion. Other measures to be considered include charging van drivers making deliveries during peak hours; introducing more road schemes such as bus lanes; and encouraging bus companies to provide more up to date travel information for passengers, says the report.

Prof David Begg said, ‘Traffic congestion is a disease which, left unchecked will destroy the bus sector. This is a dire and sensational prediction, but the evidence uncovered in this research leads to no other conclusion. Urgent action is required from industry, local government and Whitehall to reduce people’s reliance on cars and encourage more sustainable modes of transport.’

Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, Claire Haigh, said, ‘This report underlines the shocking growth of congestion and its enormous impact on bus users in particular. Measures such as contactless payments and effective bus priority measures are essential in order to ease congestion and encourage greater bus patronage. Buses make such a significant contribution to our economy and local communities and rising congestion levels pose a direct threat to services. We must act now to ensure that increasing traffic levels do not impact upon the viability of bus travel.’

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