Bus Services after the Spending Review - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Bridget Phillipson MP (BUS 140)


1.1  During my campaign and since election as Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South I continue to receive regular concerns from constituents about the price of fares, the routes of buses and the frequency of service. I share the concerns of constituents; I do not believe that the bus service available is adequate, especially as we are not served by a rail or light rail link.

1.2  In January this year I launched "The Big Bus Survey" (www.thebigbussurvey.co.uk) to help gather more information about the level of service in my constituency. In the five months since its launch, I have received almost 1,000 responses, and they continue to come in.i On 5 April 2011, I was pleased that "The Big Bus Survey" received government backing in a reply to representations I had made during a backbench business debate.ii

1.3  Later, on 24 April I was contacted by the Transport Select Committee Clerks who requested I contact those constituents who had previously answered "The Big Bus Survey" and ask them to submit written evidence to the Committee's inquiry. To ensure the views of my constituents were heard my office created a special "online" edition of "The Big Bus Survey" with questions tailored to the specific terms of reference laid down by the Committee for their inquiry. Forty people completed the survey within the 10 days it was open for people to participate.

1.4  Finally, I wish to thank my constituents for taking part in "The Big Bus Survey", without their support this submission would not have been possible. I hope the end result will honour their efforts and help deliver a bus network, which is accountable and supports the demands and needs of local people.


2.1  Rather than discuss the various policy options and economic benefits of an effective local bus network, which I am already on record as discussing, this submission is driven by the response of local people.iii It is their concerns I have tried to reflect in this submission.

2.2  Broadly, local people want to see lower bus fares and a more frequent service. They expressed frustration with bus operators for changing routes or pulling services with minimal notice and consultation. Specifically, the survey addressed three of the Committee's terms of reference:

—  Reductions in the level of service;

—  Communication with bus companies and local government about services;

—  Participation in transport surveys from "Passenger Focus".

2.3  Below, "Chart 1.0: Survey summary" clearly illustrates the answers for each of the three survey questions, whilst Tables 1.0-3.0 break down each questions response to include percentage totals.

Chart 1.0



Table 1.0


Q1:  Have you been affected by reductions/changes to local bus services?

AnswerYes No

3.1  62.5% of respondents stated they had been affected by reductions/changes to local bus services. Out of the 25 people who stated they had been affected all 25 commented on their experience. Below is a representative sample of their comments.

3.2  Kathy Dobson:

"We now do not have a direct route to Newcastle, which affects a lot of people in this area. Yes.... we can board a bus to Houghton-le-Spring, Washington or Chester-le-Street and get a bus to Newcastle, but why go 'round the world' and add another 40mins to your journey when one bus would do? We always had a direct line until last year when it was deemed to change and give us transport running through the village every 10 minutes during the day (not asked for or required) but an evening bus is a different thing, very little available and after nine o'clock retire!"

3.3  Rosalyn Meadows:

"Buses are less frequent. They are not covering the areas they used to. You cannot get buses direct to local towns/cities. The bus service is much less reliable than it used to be."

3.4  Ann Owen:

"The local bus service which gets me to the shops has been reduced from three times an hour to hourly and the rising fare has made it extremely expensive to use. It is fine for the people with bus passes but as it is a short journey the fare of £1.20 is quite prohibitive. My concern is if people don't use this service due to cost we will lose the service completely so we have a swings and roundabouts situation."


Table 2.0


Q2:  Other than "The Big Bus Survey", have you ever been asked directly by the bus companies, by Nexus or by Sunderland City Council for your views on local buses?

AnswerYes No

4.1  80% of respondents stated they had not been asked for their views on local bus services by either operators or local government/regional bodies. Out of the remaining 20 per cent who confirmed they had been asked for their view, the majority expressed concern that their view would not be represented in the end result. Below is a representative sample of their comments.

4.2  Susan Thomas:

"Go North East did a survey and the changes being made are the opposite to what I wanted. Survey included information on safety as well."

4.3  Julie Coxon:

"With Go North East—ages ago. Some people completed a survey/consultation and it bore no relation to the changes brought into effect."

4.4  Kevin Parnacott:

"The bus company and Nexus have asked for my opinions. The bus company consulted on only certain aspects of the changes."


Table 3.0


Q3:  Have you ever been asked to take part in a transport survey from "Passenger focus"?


5.1  39 out of the 40 respondents stated they had not been asked to take part in a transport survey from "passenger focus".

May 2011


i As of 13 May 2011 a total of 870 completed responses to "The Big Bus Survey" have been received.

ii "The hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson) talked about buses. I was intrigued to hear about her big bus survey-a very snappy name for a survey-which, I gathered, was obtaining very useful results. I think that unless we recognise the value of public transport in this country we will be missing a trick, and will not achieve some of our objectives. I hope that she will maintain pressure on local authorities in her area to support bus services where that is appropriate."
David Heath MP, Hansard, 5 April 201

iii Bridget Phillipson, House Magazine, April 2011

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Prepared 11 August 2011