Memorandum submitted by Transport 2000
Has deregulation worked? Are services better,
more frequent, meeting passenger need? Are bus services sufficiently
co-ordinated with other forms of public transport; are buses clean,
safe, efficient? If not, can deregulation be made to work? How?
The reality is that in many areas (outside of
London and selected areas such as Brighton and Oxford) bus services
are disappearing or in decline, passenger numbers are either declining
or stable and passengers' needs are not being met. On the other
hand, in Northern Ireland buses are regulated, but still bus services
and use are in decline due, for example, to problems of congestion
and plentiful car parking. This, coupled with the growth and success
in bus services in areas (outside of London) where regulation
is absent, shows that (re)regulation is not necessarily the solution.
Transport 2000 believes that to improve bus
services, and make them more competitive, attractive and widely
used, the following steps need to be taken by Government:
pro-bus policies at local level focusing
on bus priority measures, tackling congestion and enforcing traffic
increased, guaranteed and sustained
public funding to extend bus networks to serve more people and
areas currently without any or many services;
properly monitored experiments into
different types of partnerships and contracts between operators
and local authorities as a way forward to increasing bus ridership;
a new role for the Traffic Commissioners:
more sensible regulation in the interests of passengers by beefing
up the role of the Traffic Commissioners; and
a proper, statutory voice for bus
users which currently doesn't exist but is sorely needed.
Is statutory regulation compromising the provision
of high quality bus services?
The role of the Office of Fair Trading and competition
policy does seem to inhibit co-operation between operators for
the public interest and can mean that the role of the Traffic
Commissioners is also compromised.
Are priority measures having a beneficial effect?
What is best practice?
Priorities measures where they exist and are,
moreover, properly enforced, are most beneficial, but more than
this, they are vital for a reliable and quality bus service. Bus
priority, however, needs to be taken seriously across the country
as a priority.
There are two ways forward that we strongly
recommend. Firstly, bus priority needs to be much more widespread
and, better enforced where and when it does exist, than it is
currently. Local authorities need to retain or implement and properly
enforce bus priority in conjunction with measures to tackle congestion
and better enforced traffic law. It is up to Government to set
pro-bus policies at local level accordingly.
Secondly, to have full effect, bus priority
measures must be combined with good marketing, which is the key
to successful bus services. There is much evidence to show that
marketing is important and whatever strategy is adopted in aiming
to improve bus services, be it quality contracts, quality partnerships
or otherwise, will be unsuccessful without itand without
bus priority on the roads. There a number of examples where bus
operators using direct marketing techniques, have been able to
increase patronage on previously declining bus routes, particularly
in combination with improving services and vehicles, and with
bus priority. Amid the general decline in bus use outside London,
there a number of places where bus operators and local authorities
working in partnership have been able to increase bus use through
combinations of marketing with other improvements. These have
included places with relatively high car ownership and roads,
such as Telford and Aylesbury.
Is financing and funding for local community services
sufficient and targeted in the right way?
Without long-term, sustained and ring-fenced
revenue funding, local community services, though well-intended
and where they currently exist, will be threatened by the risk
of closure. This is particularly the case in rural areas. Innovative
services funded by Rural Bus Challenge and by the Countryside
Agency through rural transport partnerships, have been disappearing
as that funding has finished.
Concessionary fareswhat are the problems
with the current approach? Does the Government's proposal to introduce
free local bus travel across the UK for disabled people and the
over 60s from 2008 stand up to scrutiny? Should there be a nationwide
version of London's Freedom Passgiving free or discounted
travel on all forms of public transport?
There are two key problems. Firstly, inadequate
fundingwhilst free fares are commendable any benefits are
lost if the result is that buses are withdrawn. We are aware that
with the introduction of free bus travel for over-60 year olds,
Nexus have had to withdraw certain services and further discounts
(for 16-18 year olds) due to the per-capita led funding assessment
which left them with a deficit of £5.4 million. A "no
better no worse" formula means that the operators receive
funding, give concessionary fares and are no worse than they would
have been previously.
Secondly, concessionary bus fares could lead
to an undesirable significant modal shift from local rail and
train services. We advocate that the London freedom pass which
includes bus and rail be adopted across the country where Intercity
travel is excluded but local, particularly community transport
Why are there no Quality Contracts?
We do not feel suitably qualified to answer
this question but recommend that it is worth carrying out properly
monitored experiments in different types of partnerships and contracts
between operators and local authorities to see what models bring
the highest increase in bus ridership and the best outcomes in
terms of tackling traffic congestion, modal shift and in reducing
social exclusion. In some areas nearly all bus services are tendered
out and could be let out tenders in blocks rather than route by
Are the powers of the Traffic Commissioners relevant;
are they adequately deploying the powers and resources that they
currently have? Do they have enough support from Government and
The powers of the Traffic Commissioners are
too limited. To make best use of their role, we would like to
see them given new, formal powers allowing them to:
consider the full range of problems
affecting operators, including traffic congestion;
raise entry standards into the industry
so that operators have to meet certain quality criteria; and
investigate and report on Local Authority
action over buses.
Is London a sound model for the rest of the UK?
There is no doubting the success of buses and
dramatic growth in passengers in London where buses are regulated
by Transport for London. However, the solution is not as simple
as using London as a blueprint, since London is not representative
of other areas and there are factors unique to its success:
having a captive market, high population
density, low levels of parking and many no-car households;
red-route bus priority lanes;
no on-road competition;
from a passenger's perspective, better
service levels, frequencies and some aspects of information provision
than in other cities or areas;
the level of investmentLondon
bus spend is six times as much per capita as the rest of Britain;
an official users watchdogTransport
strong transport policy; and
strong political leadership and delivery
on the ground.
With this in mind, there are transferable lessons
and ingredients comprising London's success for example: planning
of the network, integration, quality incentives, competition for
the market, the importance of funding, and the value of congestion
charging (for appropriate areas).
Examples of good practice outside London are
worth learning from. There are successful bus services in some
areas, such as Oxford, York, Brighton and Hove.
In Brighton and Hove, a successful partnership
between the city council and bus operator has led to an average
5% increase in use each year since 1993. The secrets of its success
Running the most popular routes more
A simple fares system offering good
Investment in new easy-to-board buses,
with kerbs to match the low-level platforms.
Bus priority lanes and improvements
on the roads to help buses get through some of the worst traffic
Better arrangements at bus stops,
including the hugely popular real-time information system via
satellite tracking, to show when buses are due.
What is the future for the bus? Should metropolitan
areas outside London be able to develop their own form of regulated
competition? Would this boost passenger numbers? If not, what
would? Does the bus have a future? In addressing rural railways,
the Secretary of State has said that we "cannot be in the
business of carting fresh air around the country"; is the
same true for buses?
For buses and bus services to have a stable
future, and to boost passenger numbers, they need to be:
of a high enough quality that is
sustained to attract people out of their cars and dispel the myth
that buses are a second-rate and "poor man's" mode of
targeted to address demand, draw
in patronage and marketed effectively (which means there would
be no need to cart fresh air around);
socially inclusive, accessible and
affordable, and get people without access to a car to jobs and
a core part of the solution to reduce
and manage car use, and tackle congestion, alongside walking,
cycling and rail use; and
properly integrated with other modes
of public transport, including interchanges with rail and provisions
for walking and cycling, to enable a seamless and attractive door-to-door
travel. This means greater emphasis on information, interchanges,
accessibility and intelligent fares, and joint bus and rail tickets/smart
Central government need to treat and make visible
buses as a national priority, on the one hand, and to apply pressure
on local authorities to implement, enforce and increase pro-bus
policies, such as bus priority measures, on the other.
They also need to implement widespread road
user charging or similar measures, depending on the area, to tackle
We believe that there is a need for a passenger-focused
regulator whose responsibilities are separated from those of regulating
maintenance and safety, and who would adopt the DfT's economic
role, and would regulate this on behalf of the bus industry, and
would adopt the powers of the Office of Fair Trading. The Traffic
Commissioners are the obvious candidate for such a role.
A statutory voice for bus users, equivalent
to TfL for London and Passenger Focus for rail, is also missing
and the new role we are proposing would incorporate this.
Bus operators need to be much more forthcoming
in approaching local authorities in order to develop genuine partnerships.
Political risky deals, such as Quality Partnerships, will bring
Without commitment from local authorities to
serious pro-bus policies, road priority such as through parking
and road user charging, and without proper marketing, regulation
or other measures, such as Quality Partnerships, will, simply
have no effect.
Increased, guaranteed and sustained public funding
is crucial to support, improve and maintain bus services. Many
areas are seeing commercial services reduced or withdrawn, and
our research suggests that this is down to underlying cost increases,
notably with insurance, and traffic congestion. These reductions
and cost increases have in turn put severe local pressure on local
authorities who are faced both with cost increases in the services
they already support and pressure to take over funding for the
commercial services being withdrawn. The result is that a number
of areas are suffering service reductions or significant fares
Efficient marketing of bus servicesat
the least that they exist, their routes, timetable and beyond
this, steps to attract people to use busesis fundamental
to the success and future of buses.