Industry reacts to National Bus Strategy
Bus operators, notably the larger national firms, have welcomed the Government’s National Bus Strategy. However, it has come under some criticism from opposition parties and a trade union, who claim it is not enough to reverse years of service cuts.
“It is great to see government sharing our ambitious plans to deliver more frequent and comprehensive bus networks, building on private sector investment and in collaboration with local authorities” – CPT Chief Executive, Graham Vidler
CPT Chief Executive, Graham Vidler, said: “Today’s strategy is a huge opportunity for a step-change in bus use, with a major switch away from cars driving a green economic recovery. The strategy must now be matched by local delivery and consistent policy across government to put buses at the heart of transport networks.
“It is great to see government sharing our ambitious plans to deliver more frequent and comprehensive bus networks, building on private sector investment and in collaboration with local authorities. Local targets for passenger growth and quicker journeys will ensure local accountability and a shared commitment to delivering better services for passengers. This should be the focus of everyone involved in delivering bus networks, rather than the distraction of debates over regulatory models which deliver nothing for passengers.”
“As a nation, we need to finally move on from the myth that bus use is only for those who can’t afford a car” – David Brown, Chief Executive of Go-Ahead Group
“It’s the right time to have a national strategy for buses,” said David Brown, Chief Executive of Go-Ahead Group. “Bus usage has been falling for seven years and if Britain is serious about becoming a carbon neutral nation, we urgently need to halt that decline and persuade people to leave their cars at home.
“In order to do that, buses need to be quick, reliable and convenient. That means giving more bus priority including precedence for buses at traffic lights and tackling rush hour gridlock.
“People with easy access to public transport have more chance of getting a job, and are much less likely to be socially isolated and lonely. By working in partnership with local authorities, private companies can respond to demand effectively, delivering better services for all.
“A full double-decker bus can take as many as 75 private cars off the road, so the benefits of buses in cutting pollution and reducing traffic jams are as clear as daylight. As a nation, we need to finally move on from the myth that bus use is only for those who can’t afford a car.”
“For too long, the power of buses to transform local communities and local people’s lives has been overlooked” – Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Chief Executive
Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Chief Executive, said: “We welcome the ambition in the government’s new bus strategy. For too long, the power of buses to transform local communities and local people’s lives has been overlooked.
“The new bus strategy provides an opportunity for all partners – operators, national government and local authorities – to work together to harness the huge potential of the bus to help tackle climate change, deliver better air quality in our towns and cities, secure improved mobility for local people and support a sustainable economic recovery for the country.
“Planning our towns and cities around green buses and active travel, rather than private cars, is central to delivering faster, better value services and getting more people back on board the bus. That is why it is critical that the new bus strategy is matched by the right level of funding, consistent policy across government and a flexible partnership approach which prioritises benefits for customers and local communities.
“As we look to emerge from Covid, we also want to work closely with government on a proactive joint campaign to rebuild consumer confidence in public transport and to promote the wider green credentials of travelling by bus. We look forward to understanding more detail around the government’s plans for the future and its proposed roadmap to bridge from the pandemic to a new era for buses.”
“The prioritisation of buses on our roads would be a great step forward to drive better outcomes” – Paul O’Neil, MD, Arriva UK Bus
Paul O’Neil, Managing Director of Arriva UK Bus, said: “We welcome the clear direction from the Government today for the future of bus transport. We agree that more needs to be done to encourage people to leave their cars at home and turn to public transport, which will help to deliver a green recovery as regional economies build back from Covid. Customers want reliable, frequent, value-for-money bus services and one of the biggest barriers to this is congestion, which affects journey times.
“The prioritisation of buses on our roads would be a great step forward to drive better outcomes, along with locally agreed targets for journey times and passenger growth. Greater bus use supports communities and the economy, helps tackle social isolation and inequalities, enhances health and well-being, and boosts the environment by reducing pollution and carbon emissions. It’s crucial that operators are at the heart of shaping local strategies, agreeing shared commitments with authorities. Arriva brings experience of successful bus partnerships and looks forward to working closely with Government and local authorities to help deliver these important ambitions, ensuring a thriving and sustainable bus sector throughout the country.”
“We are pleased to see that the Government is matching the confidence we have in the ability of the bus to drive a green, economic recovery” – Alex Hornby, Transdev CEO
Transdev CEO, Alex Hornby, said: “We are pleased to see that the Government is matching the confidence we have in the ability of the bus to drive a green, economic recovery and a clarity of vision on what is expected from bus operators and local authorities. This reflects many of the things we already deliver, day in and day out, as part of our continued attention on the needs of our customers, from ultra-low and zero emission buses, to attractive and frequent services and contactless day and week fare capping.
“However, the biggest opportunity to create growth in bus use could be the shared commitment now expected from operators and local authorities in terms of punctuality and timekeeping, and the funding to support more bus priority, as we know buses being on time is the customer’s key demand.”
“We fully support, and are committed to, delivering this exciting, customer-focused vision” – Janette Bell, MD at First Bus
Janette Bell, Managing Director at First Bus, said: “First Bus welcomes the publication of the National Bus Strategy – we fully support, and are committed to, delivering this exciting, customer-focused vision. Across the UK, we already work closely and effectively with local authorities and the Enhanced Partnership approach will enable us to build on these strong local relationships as we move toward recovery and work to improve customer experience.
“As leaders in sustainable mobility, we embrace the opportunities demonstrated in the National Bus Strategy to accelerate the transition to zero emissions. We are fully aligned with Government’s ambitions for a zero-emission bus fleet and have already committed to this by 2035, and not purchasing any new diesel buses after December 2022.
“We will continue to ensure that our progress doesn’t just exceed Government expectations as outlined today but also puts the demands and expectations of our customers front and centre.”
Not enough to reverse service cuts
Although some operators have welcomed the National Bus Strategy, Sam Tarry MP, Labour’s Shadow Bus Minister, has criticised it. He said: “This so-called strategy offers nothing for those who were looking for a bold vision to reverse the millions of miles of bus routes lost across the country.
“People will be wondering when they return to work whether there will be enough affordable and regular buses for their daily commute.
“This so-called strategy offers nothing for those who were looking for a bold vision to reverse the millions of miles of bus routes lost across the country” – Sam Tarry MP, Labour’s Shadow Bus Minister
“The Tories said deregulation would improve our buses but they’re running bus services into the ground. Passengers now face a toxic mix of rising fares, cuts to services and reduced access.
“The Government must do more to protect this crucial sector – not least given we’ve already seen more than 1,000 jobs lost in the bus and coach manufacturing industry alone since the pandemic started.”
“It’s welcome that the Conservatives have finally realised that people take buses, however today’s announcement will not reverse their endless cuts to our vital bus networks” – Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrats Spokeswoman for Transport
Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrat Spokeswoman for Transport, said: “It’s welcome that the Conservatives have finally realised that people take buses, however today’s announcement will not reverse their endless cuts to our vital bus networks.
“Liberal Democrats believe local authorities must be at the heart of any bus strategy. This includes giving them power to run their own bus services, instead of being shackled to unpopular private bus companies who too often fail the communities they serve.”
“The National Bus Strategy is an admission that the 1980s deregulation of the bus service has been a complete failure” – Unite national officer for passenger transport, Bobby Morton
Unite, a trade union representing over 70,000 bus workers, has also warned the National Bus Strategy will not reverse service cuts.
Unite national officer for passenger transport, Bobby Morton, said: “Travel by bus is still the most popular mode of transport in the country, connecting communities, helping people get to shops, school and work. So it is extremely important that the services are stable, affordable and well-run. This strategy is a missed opportunity to achieve that goal.
“The National Bus Strategy is an admission that the 1980s deregulation of the bus service has been a complete failure.
“Fares have increased, services have reduced, private operators cherry-pick the most profitable routes and social exclusion has mushroomed as connectivity has been cut.
“The National Bus Strategy attempts to address these issues but specifically excludes the best solution which would be to allow local authorities to work together to operate their own services.
“While the franchising and enhanced partnership plans should help to reduce some of the worst excesses of the privatised bus system such proposals must be compulsory or it will result in improvements in some areas while others are left behind.
“All franchising and enhanced partnerships must include strict rules about bus drivers’ pay and conditions to ensure bus driving is an attractive profession and that problems caused by fatigue due to excessive hours are tackled.
“While the national bus strategy talks about major funding, there appears to be little new money being provided and what is available does not replace what has been removed from bus services as a result of over a decade of Conservative cuts.
“Proposals to introduce an app based on demand service are misguided, it will result in the ‘uberisation’ of services, leading to ‘Wacky Races’ on our roads as companies compete to collect passengers.
“App-based services will also result in the casualisation of drivers’ employment and will be an expensive two-tier service with passengers who are not digitally literate being excluded.”
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