Press Notice

BUS SERVICES ACROSS THE UK

Bus deregulation has failed. The House of Commons Transport Committee today warns that the deregulated bus system introduced 20 years ago is not working. Bus use continues to fall in all but a few areas and the perception of bus travel remains poor.

In its report, Bus services across the UK, the Committee says that a greater shift from car use to buses is vital if the UK is to properly tackle congestion and reduce carbon emissions. Since 1985, journeys in most areas outside London have fallen. It is only in the capital that they have risen substantially. Where bus use has increased elsewhere it has tended to be in small historic towns or areas with municipal bus companies.

To reverse the decline, the Committee urges the Government to make it easier for passenger transport authorities to set up a more structured bus network in their area. To date no authority has applied for a Quality Contract - a system whereby bus companies operate under a licensed scheme. The Committee suggests setting up some trial areas to see how a system based on these Quality Contracts, or the system operated in London, would work outside the capital.

The Committee also says that more research is required into what potential users want in terms of improved services, better promotion and a more pro-active attitude by local government towards curbing traffic congestion.

Other recommendations include:

€ Strengthening the role of Traffic Commissioners. They should be given the resources to monitor the speed of travel of buses and have the power to require local authorities to draw up traffic management plans to deal with delays where they require bus priority, or traffic management measures.

€ Where possible, bus lanes should be co-ordinated across local authority boundaries. Bus lanes must be rigorously enforced to discourage car drivers from flouting the law.

€ A thorough review of how the Competition Act applies to bus services. It is ridiculous that bus operators are forbidden from providing through-ticketing and co-ordinating scheduled services.

€ Mandatory concessionary schemes should be extended to the under-16s and others in full-time education.

Chairman of the Transport Committee, Gwyneth Dunwoody said: " Concessions for children to use buses to and from school would cut down on the school run and for those in full-time education it might cut the pressure on 17-25 year olds to buy a car as soon as possible. A good experience of using buses when young could influence travel choices later in life.

She added: " Congestion is a major contributor to the unreliability of bus services, which is only made worse if people abandon buses for their cars. The Government, in partnership with local authorities, must give a high priority to tackling congestion.

"The public image of buses needs to be improved. There is still a perception that bus services are generally unreliable and of a poor quality; that vehicles are old and inaccessible; that drivers are rude and that passengers are unsafe and uncomfortable.

"We want to see the Department of Transport take a leading role in promoting bus use not only to the public but through public policy and guidance. It could do much more to monitor the industry or give Traffic Commissioners the tools they need to do so."

Press Notice 70/2005-06 26 October 2006