Memorandum by the Local Government Association,
the Confederation of Passenger Transport, the National Federation
of Bus Users, Age Concern, the British Chambers of Commerce, the
National Society for Clean Air, Transport 2000 and the Association
of Transport Co-ordinating Officers (Bus 07)
THE BUS INDUSTRY
1. Two thirds of public transport journeys
are made by bus and improving bus services offers the greatest
potential for quickly improving public transport at the local
level. Bus services are particularly important for people on low
incomes and poor local transport can exacerbate the problems experienced
by socially excluded groups. Improving bus services is a crucial
element in discouraging car use to reduce congestion and improve
2. As part of a wider LGA initiative launched
last summer, a group of Pathfinder local councils have been working
with local bus companies and other partners to develop a range
of innovative ideas to improve the quality of local bus services.
The aim is to "pilot" new ideas in specific areas to
test whether they work. Proposals include speeding up buses in
Birmingham by strictly enforcing bus lanes; increasing bus use
in Lancashire to reduce urban congestion; and re-planning bus
services in Hampshire to address social needs in rural areas.
3. However, the major problem facing these
pilot projects is central government red tape. A number of experiments
have been hampered by government regulations that are preventing
local partners from working together effectively. One of the main
problems is that competition regulations designed to prevent anti-competitive
practices such as price-fixing by operators are hampering partnerships
between local authorities and local bus companies to improve services.
4. For example, regulations have the effect
of requiring two operators on the same route to have different
fare structures to prevent uncompetitive collusion. This means
that passengers may be charged different fares for exactly the
same journey and there may be problems about the inter-availability
of return tickets. These requirements make no sense to passengers
and only serve to create the impression of an unintegrated and
badly-planned transport service. More details of the practical
problems being faced by local partnerships are given in Paragraphs
5. In the recent White Paper on Local Government
strong local leadership, quality public services the government
made a commitment to freeing local government from unnecessary
Whitehall bureaucracy to allow it to deliver high quality public
services. The Local Government Association, the Confederation
of Passenger Transport, the National Federation of Bus Users,
the NHS Confederation, Age Concern, the National Society for Clean
Air, Transport 2000 and the Association of Transport Co-ordinating
Officers are calling on the Government to make this commitment
a reality. By cutting the red tape to allow local experiments
the Government would give local councils, bus operators, other
local agencies and the communities they serve an opportunity to
try truly innovative approaches to improving local bus services.
6. Paragraphs 12-22 set out some "bus
facts" which demonstrate the importance of local bus services,
particularly to socially excluded groups and the widespread public
support for the improvement of bus services.
7. South Ribble, Lancashire provides a practical
example of the kinds of issues that bus partnerships seek to address.
Residents in the area experience real difficulty in getting to
and from hospitals because journeys often involve the use of services
provided by more than one operator. A journey which might take
20 minutes by car can take over two hours by public transport
simply as a result of lack of timetable co-ordination between
operators in what, to the public, would appear to be one network.
If operators could work together with local authorities then it
is likely that this would lead to the best use of available vehicles
for the benefit of the wider community and it would create a coherent
network for an area.
8. The East Leeds Guided Bus Scheme is a
quality partnership between local authorities and bus operators
but illustrates how competition regulations cause difficulties
if more than one operator serves a particular route. In East Leeds
two major operators have made very significant contribution to
the costs of infrastructure and operate high quality vehicles,
yet because of the competition regulations charge different fares
for similar journeys. This does not make sense to the passenger
and only serves to create an adverse impression of the public
9. In Lancashire, bus operators have expressed
concern at the problems caused by the competition regulations
and recognise that it is damaging to the perception of public
transport in its efforts to compete against the private car. If
freed from the excessive restrictions imposed by the Competition
Act, the operators say they would be amenable to working together
to improve local bus services.
10. Birmingham is looking at improving highway
conditions for bus operators to reduce congestion and speed up
bus journeys. The council applied to the Government for powers
to use cameras to catch drivers using bus lanes illegally last
summer but is still waiting for government action.
11. In Hampshire, the County Council is
working closely with the single commercial bus operator in the
Andover area to try to improve the public transport network with
the aim of increasing usage. A number of improvements to service
patterns and bus frequencies have been identified. To move forward
on these ideas the local authority needs to negotiate with the
commercial service operator to agree funding for the improvements.
The difficulty is that the local authority is only allowed to
reach an agreement with the operator up to certain fixed financial
limits, which are currently set at a very low level. This constrains
innovation and the council would like the freedom to agree an
overall package with the operator, without limits, subject to
the process being transparent and audited to ensure that the Council
is achieving best value from its actions.
12. Local buses are the dominant form of
public transport, carrying over twice as many passengers as rail
in Great Britain: 4.3 billion passenger journeys were made by
bus in 2000-01, compared to 2.1 billion journeys by rail (DTLR,
Bulletin of Transport Statistics, 2001).
13. 68 per cent of all public transport
journeys are by bus (DTLR, Bulletin of Transport Statistics,
14. There are over 80 million bus journeys
a week (DTLR, Bulletin of Transport Statistics, 2001).
15. Around three in 10 bus trips are for
shopping: but amongst the elderly, this rises to over a half (DTLR,
Bulletin of Transport Statistics, 2001).
16. Unsurprisingly, bus use is heavily influenced
by a person's access to a car. People in households without cars
made 20 per cent of their trips by bus compared with 3 per cent
in households with one or more cars (DTLR, Personal Travel
Factsheet 8: Bus Use in Great Britain, 2001).
17. Women use buses more than men: during
the survey week 19 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women in
the National Travel Survey (NTS) sample had used a local bus at
least once (DTLR, Personal Travel Factsheet 8: Bus Use in Great
18. Bus use is greatest amongst those aged
16-20, where men made 130 trips per year and women 149 compared
with the average of 48 and 70 respectively for all age groups
(DTLR, Personal Travel Factsheet 8: Bus Use in Great Britain,
19. People in low-income groups made most
bus trips. On average, people living in the lowest income quintile
households made 97 bus trips a year (11 per cent of all trips
made by these people). The lowest use was recorded by those in
the highest income quintile, 29 trips a year (2 per cent of all
trips) (DTLR, Personal Travel Factsheet 8: Bus Use in Great
20. For Great Britain as a whole, 87 per
cent of households have reasonable access to a bus service (within
13 minutes walk of a bus stop with a service of at least once
an hour). In rural areas the proportion of households with this
level of service has risen from 35 per cent in 1985-86 to 42 per
cent in 1997-99 (DTLR, Personal Travel Factsheet 8: Bus Use
in Great Britain, 2001).
21. 90 per cent of the general public say
they support a policy of maintaining and improving bus services
(CfIT, Public Attitudes to Transport in England, 2000).
22. 82 per cent of the general public support
a policy of more bus services (CfIT, Public Attitudes to Transport
in England, 2000).