Memorandum by the Social Exclusion Unit
THE BUS INDUSTRY
1. The Transport Sub Committee has requested
that the SEU submit evidence relating to the contribution of bus
services to reducing social exclusion. This memorandum covers
the work that the SEU has been involved in relevant to the inquiry,
and the evidence we have since obtained.
Why is the SEU doing a project on Transport and
2. A number of the SEU's past reports have
mentioned transport as a problem or as a barrier to participation
in many activities. For example, during the SEU's work on neighbourhood
renewal, transport problems were frequently highlighted as important
barriers to improving work, learning and health outcomes in deprived
areas. "Bridging the Gap", the report on 16-18 year
olds not in education, training or work, also identified transport
as a key problem.
3. These problems, and the cross-cutting
nature of them, were the basis of the Prime Minister's request
in Spring 2001 for the SEU to further investigate the links between
transport and social exclusion.
The remit of the Project
4. The term "social exclusion"
is used to describe people with a range of linked problems, such
as unemployment, poor educational achievement, low incomes, poor
housing, physical barriers and bad health. These tend to have
a cumulative and reinforcing effect on each other, preventing
people from participating in society.
5. Poor transport can be a result of social
exclusion. For example people on low incomes may not be able to
afford the cost of motoring or may be forced to restrict their
use of public transport by the cost of fares.
6. Poor transport can also reinforce social
exclusion. For example, a lone parent may be unable to take up
employment because of the travel costs and complex travel patterns
needed to accommodate childcare arrangements and getting to work.
Or an elderly or disabled person may be unable to get to key local
services and facilities as often as they would like because of
intimidation from busy and noisy roads and a lack of accessible
7. However it is important to stress that
not everyone who experiences social exclusion will necessarily
have a transport problem, and not everyone with transport problems
is at risk of social exclusion. For some people, transport can
be a major factor limiting their opportunities, while for others,
it may not be very important compared to other problems such as
a poor education.
8. For this reason, the project has carried
out an analysis of the problem of poor transport and investigated
the extent to which transport contributes to social exclusion.
Particular emphasis has been placed on access to work, learning,
health and other key social services such as food shops. It also
identifies the disproportionate impact of road traffic on deprived
Current stage of the Project
9. The SEU has completed its initial analysis
of the transport problems for socially excluded groups and has
published its findings in an Interim Report "Making the Connections:
Transport and Social Exclusion" in May 2002.
The Interim Report:
Examines the extent to which transport
contributes to social exclusion
Examines the causes and how past
policies have contributed to the problem
Draws on experience from both here
and abroad to identify the policy lessons and practical initiatives
that can improve the present situation
Identifies a number of financial,
regulatory and institutional barriers to a more effective transport
Lays out the basic principles for
working towards a more inclusive system of transport provision
10. The next steps for the project will
be to publish a final report later in the year. The report will
contain details on how policies will address the problems identified
in the interim report.
11. The Committee has asked us to respond
to the following headings:
(i) The extent to which transport contributes
to social exclusion
(ii) Whether fares or frequency of services
is the most important factor to buses successfully reducing social
(iii) The extent to which buses are the long-term
solution or whether a switch to more flexible forms of transport
is more appropriate
(iv) The main problems and how they should
(i) The extent to which transport contributes
to social exclusion
12. There is a growing body of evidence
which demonstrates that the transport system in England, and in
particular the current bus network and fare structure, restricts
access to the activities which significantly enhance life chances,
including work, learning and health care. This evidence has been
gathered from a wide range of sources both on a national scale,
ONS responses, the National Travel Survey, and more localised
13. Poor public transport can prevent people
from attending interviews, can lead people to apply for jobs in
a narrow geographical area and can result in people turning down
Thirty-eight per cent of jobseekers
say that transport (lack of personal transport or poor public
transport) is a key barrier to getting a job
Two-fifths of long-term unemployed
men in rural areas say that getting to jobs is a barrier to finding
More than one in six people in low-income
areas have turned down a job in the last twelve months because
of transport problems
One in four people say their job
search is inhibited by the cost of travel to interview schemes
Jobseekers with driving licences
are twice as likely to get jobs as those without
14. Transport can also affect access to
post-16 participation in education, before-and-after-school activities
and participation in adult learning. Whereas most school children
receive concessionary fares and tend to travel relatively small
distances to school, young people entering further education,
or adults returning to education, usually do not receive travel
discounts and often travel longer distances:
Transport costs are the biggest expenditure
associated with participation in post-16 education. In 1999 their
average annual transport costs were £371 (around £10
per week during term time) 
Nearly half of 16-18 year old students
say they find their transport costs hard to meet. The Education
Maintenance Allowance (EMA) evaluation shows that a significant
proportion of young people use their allowance to subsidise transport
Six per cent of 16-24 year olds have
turned down training or further education over the past twelve
months because of transport problems
A large comprehensive school with
a large isolated rural catchment area found that 40-45 per cent
of its pupils were missing after-school activities due to transport
constraints. Since the introduction of two late bus services no
child was forced to miss after-school activities.
15. Poor transport can also mean that people
miss health appointments or suffer delays in being discharged
from hospitalboth of which incur large costs to the NHS.
Between 15 and 20 per cent of people
find it difficult to travel to hospital. This figures rises to
31 per cent for people without a car
Five to six per cent of people in
deprived areas turn down or do not seek medical help because of
More than half of older people travelling
to hospitals and dentist in London experience some difficulties
in getting there, and a third of those attending GPs or health
(ii) What are the important contributory
factors to reducing social exclusion: fares or frequency of service?
16. Our analysis has identified three main
barriers to social inclusion and access to services: the cost
of fares or motoring, availability and accessibility of transport
services, and limited travel horizons. Their contribution to social
exclusion varies depending on the group and their location (urban
or rural), therefore their contribution to reducing exclusion
will vary accordingly.
17. The cost of using buses has risen considerablyover
30 per cent since 1985. This is a rise that is much faster than
motoring costswhich over the last 10-20 years has remained
nearly static, benefit levels, or the minimum wage. For certain
groups, this can pose particular problems.
18. For example, people in post - 16 education
spend £371 annually on transportaround £10 per
week during term time. This compares to around £319 for all
19. Public Transport trips also cost more
in the UK than other countriesa typical trip by public
transport costs an average 15 per cent more than in Germany, 60
per cent more than in France and nearly three times as much as
in the Netherlands. Low-income groups may not take up work because
of the cost of travel, especially if the route involves a long
journey. Similarly, single mothers often have to make complicated
journeys, which can be costly when they involve paying for buses
to do the school run, and again to get to work.
20. Fare initiatives adopted by Trent Buses
represent a clear example of an operator identifying costs as
a barrier to travel and altering fares accordingly. In an area
of Trent with higher than average unemployment levels bus patronage
was identified as being far more sensitive to price than the norm.
in response Trent Buses developed a range of experimental fare
deals including Kids for a Penny throughout the weekend
and off peak during the week. This scheme has not affected the
company's profits, as adults travelling more frequently have balanced
the loss in revenue received via children travelling.
(b) Access and availability
21. Only 20 per cent of buses in the UK
meet the accessibility requirements of the Disability and Discrimination
Act 1995, the deadlines for achieving full compliance range from
2015 to 2020, depending on the type of vehicle. This, combined
with a lack of safe crossings at bus stops, and the poor surface
of surrounding areas of bus stops, means that for the 14 per cent
of adults who have a physical difficulty or long-standing health
problem, going out on foot or using the bus is difficult.
Crime and Fear of Crime
22. People on low incomes are nearly five
times more likely to say that they are concerned about the levels
of crime in their area and safety at bus stops than people in
the least deprived areas.
23. Security fears around bus services are
also more acute for people travelling during the evening or early
morning and for women. For example, women are much more likely
than men to feel unsafe waiting at bus stops44 per cent
of women and 19 per cent of men.
Frequency, reliability and network coverage
24. The frequency of services is a particular
problem in rural areas. Although accessibility in rural areas
has improved significantly in recent years, 50 per cent of people
in rural areas do not live within 13 minutes' walk of an hourly
daytime bus service. And 29 per cent of rural settlements have
no service at all. This means that people may not just be hit
by cost or inconvenience of travel, but may simply be unable to
get to work or services without their own transport. However,
urban areas also experience difficulties, particularly in peripheral
areas of estates, where bus services tend not to go.
25. However, even when there are regular
bus services, bus routes do not always match the location or timing
of the journeys people need to make. Bus routes tend to be dominated
by radial routes that go in and out of large centres often during
peak hours, whereas new sites of employment, such as call centres
or supermarkets and key public services such further education
colleges, are often located on the periphery of towns. This can
mean a long circuitous route or lots of interchanges in order
to access such services.
26. The Manvers Shuttle in South Yorkshire
is a good example of where buses have been sharply focused on
improving access to education and work. It is a public transport
service, which operates a regular bus route linking people with
the local colleges and call centres in the Dearne regeneration
area. The fare is 20 pence per trip. The service has attracted
more than 170,000 users in its first year.
27. The frequency and reliability of public
transport is particularly important for women, who often have
to combine journeys to work, school/childcare and shopping, thus
punctuality and speed is at a premium.
28. National Travel Survey data shows that
the frequency of bus service is somewhat more important than the
distance needed to travel to that service. So even when services
are more than 13 minutes away, people make 100 trips annually
when it is at least hourly, compared to only around ten trips
when the service is less than once an hour.
(c) Travel Horizons
29. People may be reluctant to make journeys
that require longer distances, journey times or interchanges.
This is often the result of poor route and timetable information
about services, network instabilitythe number of changes
to the bus network in recent years has reduced people's trust
and familiarity with bus services. For example, one large Passenger
Transport Executive experiences up to 20 network changes per week.
30. Low-income groups are particularly affected
by: a lack of confidence that the bus will be able to get them
where they need to go on time; low levels of English language
and literary skillswhich can prevent people from being
able to access transport. A lack of audio-visual or other inclusive
design features can also prevent people with physical and learning
disabilities accessing transport service.
(iii) Buses or more flexible forms of transport
The extent to which buses are the long term
31. Buses are likely to remain the primary
solution across the majority of the country. In areas of moderate
to high demand they have the important advantage of being cost-effective.
The example of London illustrates the potential for increasing
bus demand where conditions are favourable; bus patronage in London
has increased by 11 per cent since the mid-1980s.
Moreover in most EU countries the demand for
bus travel has grown substantially in recent years. 
32. However, there is also an important
emerging role for demand and responsive transport (DRT). These
more flexible forms of transport can effectively bridge the gap
between taxis and buses and are particularly suitable for journeys
where demand is weaker and more volatile, such as in rural areas,
or during the early mornings and late evenings. The Urban and
Rural Bus Challenges have encouraged the development of demand-responsive
services and many authorities are considering extending these
services more widely.
33. InterConnect in Lincolnshire
is an example of a public transport service in Britain which combines
the advantages of both the bus and DRT, recognising the contrasting
circumstances in which they operate most effectively.
34. InterConnect combines frequent inter-urban
bus routes where the demand is high and predictable, with a series
of flexible feeder routes, which connect to these main radial
corridors, and serve the outlying rural areas where demand is
more dispersed. These feeder services operate flexibly in response
to individual telephone bookingsthe advantage being a more
cost-effective and convenient service where conventional bus services
would both miss pockets of demand and not be used to capacity.
35. Bus use on the inter-urban routes has
increased by 112 per cent and by 40 per cent on the demand-responsive
feeder services. Significantly the level of unmet transport demand
has been assessed as having decreased by at least 16 per cent.
(iv) Main problems and how they should be
36. Critical barriers to progress include:
Social costs have not been given due weight in
transport policy: The cost of poor access to work, learning and
health care falls to a range of departments. Local transport targets
are focused on reducing congestion and increasing bus use, not
ensuring that people can access work, learning and health care.
Nor do they focus on whether some communities suffer disproportionately
from the impact of traffic through pollution and child pedestrian
accidents. Other non-transport decisions can also impact negatively
such as the decisions by local planning authorities relating to
the siting of new developments, or health and education authority
decisions on where to open or close facilities.
Local transport planning: Local authorities
do not routinely assess whether people can get to work, learning,
health care or other activities in a reasonable time or cost.
Spending is not tied to outcomes such as improved journey times,
accessible vehicles, punctuality or customer satisfaction.
Revenue funding level: Around £1 billion
is spent on revenue support for buses through concessionary fares,
fuel duty rebate (FDR) and subsidising unprofitable services.
Spending has fallen by nearly a third since 1985, while spending
on subsidising unprofitable routes has fallen by almost two-thirds.
This reflects falling operating costs during this period. However,
tender costs are now rising sharply due to driver shortages and
commercial operators withdrawing routes. Local authorities are
struggling to maintain existing services, rather than trying to
adapt services to more dispersed land use patterns and more flexible
Funding equity: Bus expenditure disproportionately
benefits lower income groups. But given the balance between spending
on different modes, current transport spending is regressive.
The majority of transport spending benefits people on higher incomes
because they are more likely to use rail and travel longer distances.
It is estimated that those in the lowest income quintile will
gain 12 per cent of total spending in the 10-Year Transport Plan,
while the highest quintile would gain 38 per cent.
Fragmented funding: while £1 billion is
spent by DTLR on bus revenue support, a further £900 million
is spent on school, patient and social services transport by several
different Government departments.
Regulatory barriers: Some potential solutions,
including demand-response transport, flexibly routed buses, wider
use of community transport, integrated ticketing, Quality Contracts,
and applying concessionary fares to wider client groups, are prevented
because of regulatory barriers.
Funding sustainability: funding is often available
to local authorities and voluntary sector groups for innovative
new transport schemes, but they often have great difficulty finding
money to sustain the service, even when they are successful.
37. Ideas for improvements under consideration
by the SEU include:
Clearer accountability at a local
level for tackling the ability to access work, learning and health
care, through accessibility and impact planning. Someone would
need to be responsible for auditing whether people in each area
can get to key places. Local targets could then be set to improve
availability, affordability, service frequency, crime and fear
of crime walking to, waiting for, or travelling on public transport,
or other local problems. It would be important that full consideration
is given to alternative ways of solving transport problems through
changing the location and timing of health and education provision
or through ICT and home delivery.
Flexibility to achieve these objectives,
possibly including the removal of regulatory barriers to flexibly
routed buses, integrated ticketing, the use of concessionary fares
for people on low incomes, and reducing the notice period for
the implementation of Quality Contracts.
Resources that are distributed more
equitably, are more joined up, better targeted, and linked to
measurable outcomes defined under accessibility and impact planning.
This should ensure that social exclusion objectives are given
due weight alongside economic and environmental goals, including
through transport appraisal mechanisms.
Skills, expertise and knowledge:
local authorities need the skills to ensure transport services
adapt to consumers' requirements, and a firmer evidence base on
which to assess problems and develop solutions.
38. The SEU is also working on improvements
to special transport to work, learning and healthcare. It is also
considering ways of reducing the need to travel, through better
planning of the location of new facilities, as well as methods
such as outreach and electronic delivery of services.
24 Audit Commission (1999) A Life's Work: Local
Authorities' Economic Development and Regeneration. Back
Beatty, C and Fothergill s(2001) Labour market detachment in
rural England, Countryside Agency. Back
Ruston, D (2002) Difficulty in Accessing Key Services,
Office for National Statistics. Back
Mckay S et al (1999) unemployment and Jobseeking after the
introduction of Jobseekers Allowance, Department of Social
Security (DSS) research report 99. In recognition of this problem
DWP are currently reconsidering the eligibility criteria for help
with interview costs. Back
Stafford, B et al (1999) Work and Young Men Joseph Rowntree
ONS (2001). Back
Ruston (2002). Back
Age Concern, cited in the Audit Commission (draft report 2001)
Transport of Delight: taking people to and from education,
social services and health care. Back
Grayling T Any more fares? Delivering better bus services
p 8. Back
The distance travelled by bus per person in Austria and Sweden
has increased by more than 20 per cent, Denmark by more than 40
per cent and Italy by more than half between 1980 and 1998 (Commission
for Integrated Transport). Back