Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Institution of Highways & Transportation (Bus 41)



  1.1  In this submission we focus on the importance of the whole journey, passenger perceptions and quality of service in tackling exclusion and driving up quality in the bus industry. We start from the position that even the best bus services are sub-optimal if access to and from them is not safe, convenient, reliable and comfortable.


  2.1  The overall objective must be to secure the earliest possible delivery of better and more sustainable transport infrastructure and services while providing value for money for the taxpayer. At the heart of this is seeking continuous improvement, better safety and operational performance, as well as better customer service, in the bus industry.


  3.1  The secret is to put passengers first and to be customer-driven. It is crucial that the bus industry understands and delivers what customers want, and that the legislative regime encourages this.


  4.1  What does the bus industry need to do to offer a more customer-driven service? The travelling public wants:

    Better punctuality and reliability, eg tougher performance targets, extra drivers (a particular constraint in some areas at present), spare vehicles for emergency use, enhanced maintenance cover, better arrangements for dealing with disrupted services and greater priority on the highway network.

    Reduced overcrowding, eg extra vehicles and additional services, particularly in areas of high demand, and modern state of the art vehicles.

    Improved safety and personal security, eg more CCTV at stations and on vehicles (in some circumstances), secure parking, more accreditation under the secure stations initiative and extended staffing hours.

    Integrated transport measures, eg integrated public transport information systems, better and safer interchange at and access to, stations and Park & Ride by local public transport, by car, cycle and on foot.

    Improved accessibility for disabled people, eg at stations and on buses. This is absolutely crucial. A transport system designed to be convenient for disabled people will be more sustainable and convenient for everybody. This is all part of putting passengers first and could include providing better compensation when things go wrong, no-quibble refunds and a greater voice for passengers in the level and standards of services.

    Improved station facilities, eg signage, ticket offices, passenger information, waiting environments, real time travel information and internet ticket sales for the seamless journey.


  5.1  Air quality on some heavily used bus priority routes can fall below acceptable levels and be detrimental to public health. Consequently, the bus industry and government have an important role to play in increasing the use of modern vehicles and cleaner technologies and fuels.


  6.1  Inclusive bus services must enable universal use by all potential users. There are four key attributes:

    Safety and security—Safety and security need to be the number one priority of every bus industry employee.

    Mobility—We live in a highly mobile society. The quality of many people's lives is dependent on their mobility. People travel to take part in activities that are, by and large, closely associated with land use patterns, ie education, health, shopping, work and leisure. Consequently, there is a critical relationship between transport (private and public), land use and overall quality of life. Despite this, the Planning Green Paper was considered by many observers to be weak on integrated land use and transport planning.

    Economic Viability—Efficient transport is crucial to an efficient economy. Bus services have a key role to play in the national, regional and local context as an essential service provider and, often, a major employer.

    Accessibility—Bus services have an important role in the overall accessibility that citizens enjoy and their inclusion in the activities that society offers.


  7.1  So how do we deliver this? The answer lies primarily in service quality. The transport literature identifies the following key issues.

  7.2  Service quality and customer satisfaction have been discussed for many years within the industry. Customer satisfaction is important because it translates into retained markets, increased use of the system, newly attracted customers and a more positive image. At the heart of customer satisfaction lies the need to focus on providing for people. Traditionally, very little attention has been paid to the needs of older travellers. The industry will have to devote much greater attention to what older travellers require, how to meet their demands and serve their travel needs. Demographic trends suggest that populations are ageing dramatically and the proportions of older people will increase substantially over the next 50 years. This is a market that the industry must continue to nurture and develop.

  7.3  Breaking down the barriers to the use of public transport is vital to making public transport more viable as a business and as an alternative to the private car. It is important for passenger transport providers to identify and prioritise the needs of women and children, particularly concerning personal security, both on discreet journeys and as part of the whole journey. Again, this represents a substantial existing and potential market that the bus industry should increasingly target in a planned and proactive way.


  8.1  Within the literature there appear to be 10 key categories that determine service quality and development.

    Reliability, which means consistency of performance, frequency and dependability—bus priority measures and their enforcement are particularly important in this regard. However, there is little evidence that Bus Quality Partnerships have delivered significant or widespread benefits and, indeed, a growing feeling that a more streamlined approach to Bus Quality Contracts (BQC) would offer greater incentives to transport authorities, increase control and better reflect the balance of contributions to partnerships made by the public and private sectors. Practical demonstration projects would speed up delivery of BQCs by developing and disseminating knowledge on how best to implement them.

    Responsiveness—timeliness and the willingness of employees to provide a good service.

    Competence—possession of the required skills and knowledge to perform the service on offer.

    Access—ease of using the system and contacting staff—and affordability.

    Courtesy—being treated politely and considerately.

    Communication—keeping customers informed and, most importantly, listening to them.

    Credibility—trustworthiness and having the customer's best interest at heart. Central to this is easy to use, accurate timetable information and publicity.

    Security—freedom from danger, risk or doubt.

    Understanding and knowing the customer—understanding customers' needs and, more importantly, reacting.

    Finally, the tangibles—the physical environment of the service.


  9.1  These issues are important because they create customer loyalty. The bus industry needs secure customers that continue to use the service and recommend it to others.

  9.1  A more sophisticated approach would look at the various components of individual trips: planning the journey, affordability, accessibility, waiting conditions (in particular the quality, comfort and information afforded at bus stops and shelters), the quality experienced on the vehicles, transfer arrangements to other transport services and systems and egress to the final destination. This approach is crucial to increasing ridership and fulfilling the Government's wider integrated transport policies.


  10.1  Good interchange between modes is essential to achieving customer satisfaction and loyalty, primarily this means integration with walking, but at interchanges and Park & Ride facilities, there will be multi-modal considerations. People judge the total journey rather than the component modes within it. Their level of satisfaction is based on a door-to-door assessment of the journey.

  10.2  Good interchange facilities are critical to encouraging alternatives to the private car and creating a genuinely integrated transport system.


  11.1    Good interchange need not cost more than poor interchange. It requires attention to detail.

    Interchange is often thought of in relation to large transport facilities but, just as important, is the availability of cycle racks, shelters, good publicity materials and accurate and easy to understand bus stop information. The design, location and maintenance of these basic facilities needs equal care and attention to detail at major interchanges. It also needs pooled resources and close co-operation between local authorities and operators. There are four key requirements for good interchange.

    Certainty—good information on when the connection arrives and what routes are being served.

    Safety and security—passengers need to feel safe.

    Comfort—good seats, protection from weather, well-maintained and clean facilities; good lighting and facilities, and some form of interest whilst waiting.

    Good standards of accessibility—everybody should be able to use public transport interchanges: wheelchair users, people with children, pushchairs, heavy luggage or shopping, and people with arthritis or problems with sight or hearing. This brings us back to the issue of universal design and taking proper account of the so-called "human factors".

  11.2  In terms of interchange between public transport, cars and taxis it is important to consider parking provision (within a sustainable local transport policy), Park & Ride and accessibility, safety and security in relation to bus services.


  12.1  About 8.5 million people in the UK currently meet the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 definition. In addition, around 1.5 million people have had a disability in the past and would also be protected by the Act.

  12.2  Disability is a high priority area, particularly due to the obligations placed by the DDA. From 2004, providers of facilities and services will be required to remove physical obstructions to their premises. Much work has already been undertaken to ensure that transport authorities and providers comply with the law. However, for implementation to succeed, a culture change—in valuing human diversity, widening and managing access and building on existing good practices—will need to be promoted.

  12.3  Bus services are the cornerstone of more socially inclusive transport opportunities. There is no escaping the fact that bus services are price-sensitive. For bus services to achieve the Government's aims concerning quality of life and social they need to be available and affordable, particularly relative to the private car.


  13.1  As a result of the 11 September terrorist attack, managers in critical service industries, like passenger transport, must pay greater attention to issues such as terrorism, civil unrest, natural and technological disasters. Contemporary terrorists have made public transport and buses a new theatre of military operations (ie attacks against Greyhound bus drivers in the USA and their use in the conflict in Israel/Palestine).

  13.2  In terms of emergency preparedness, transport providers should seek to:

    Prevent incidents within their control and responsibility, effectively protecting critical assets;

    Respond decisively to events that cannot be prevented, mitigating loss and protecting employees, passengers and emergency responders;

    Support response to events that impact their communities, integrating their equipment and capabilities seamlessly into the total effort; and

    Recover from major events, taking full advantage of available resources and programmes.

  13.3  No security system can stop terrorists from setting off bombs in public places but good security measures can make terrorist operations more difficult, increase the terrorists' likelihood of being detected and identified, keep casualties and disruption to a minimum, reduce panic and reassure alarmed passengers in a crisis.

  13.4  The passenger transport industry played a major role in getting Manhattan back on its feet after the World Trade Center attack. Best practice requires that, particularly in major urban centres, transport providers produce comprehensive, up-to-date security and emergency response plans, co-ordinated with local authorities, perhaps including mutual aid pacts with other relevant agencies, and subject to periodic review.

  13.5  One of the most important lessons learned following 11 September, was the value of exercises or drills. These include tabletop crisis management exercises, joint field exercises to test emergency response and covert testing of security. Caring for victims is also important. Providing prompt assistance to survivors, and victim identification and location in relation to relatives, will not save lives. But it will spare the industry some of the ugly criticisms that come into inept handling of these tasks.


  14.1  Bus deregulation was intended to improve quality through competition. However, due to consolidation in the industry, the reality is that little real competition exists through which to drive up quality. Despite this, the Office of Fair Trading police anti-competitive practices and this can include restricting integrated ticketing policies which are at the heart of providing seamless journeys, a desirable outcome. The competition restrictions need to be reviewed to develop a system in which ticketing and service delivery arrangements promote the public interest first and foremost.

  14.2  There is no clear and accountable national regulatory body with the remit to drive up standards in the industry. Arguably, the Traffic Commissioners are not perceived to be fulfilling this remit in practice.


  15.1  Funding for public transport services would benefit from review and reform. At present funding is derived from the Standard Spending Assessment process within which there is no specific consideration of bus service needs. This is not satisfactory and, notwithstanding that Local Transport Plans (LTPs) deal primarily with capital expenditure, there is a case for revenue funding for bus services to be provided through the LTP process. Buses operate mainly on the public highway which is managed and improved through the LTP process. This suggested approach would more closely integrate local transport infrastructure and passenger transport service provision. It could form part of a stronger focus on bus services in LTPs to ensure that, for example, measures that could make conditions worse for buses are less likely to occur on the ground.

  15.2  In terms of regulation of the industry, it is time to review the Transport Act 1985 restrictions on ownership of vehicles by PTEs to look for ways to provide greater flexibility and to reinforce control and quality.


  16.1  The 10-Year Plan target requires a 10 per cent increase in bus use over the Plan period. There is growing concern that there is no practical mechanism for achieving this outside London. Further work is required to develop delivery mechanisms and monitoring arrangements, perhaps as part of the LTP process, to increase the likelihood of this target being achieved.

  16.2  There is a case for separate targets for bus passenger growth within London and outside London. This would help to focus effort on the situation outside London, and particularly in rural areas, where the overall circumstances are worse yet potentially masked by progress in London.

Carlton Robert-James

Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Technical Affairs

18 April 2002

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