The Transport Select Committee has published the results of its inquiry into bus services in England outside London, an inquiry we gave evidence to. The Committee’s report recognises that the steady decline of local buses needs to be tackled, and tackled urgently.
In our evidence to the inquiry we shared with MPs some of the stories we’ve heard from our supporters; people whose quality of life has been greatly reduced simply because they can no longer take the bus. People who can no longer visit friends and family, people who have had to give up hobbies and social activities, people whose educational and employment opportunities have been curtailed and people who are now forced to make unacceptably long or expensive alternative journeys to attend medical appointments. And it’s not just individuals’ lives that are affected when a bus service goes, the local economy suffers too.
That’s why we’re really pleased that the Select Committee has made some very sensible recommendations for how to create an affordable, reliable and integrated local bus network.
One of its main recommendations is that the Government should establish a National Bus Investment Strategy by the end of 2020. This is something we have been calling for since 2016 and would mean that our most used form of public transport - nearly three in every five journeys in 2017/18 was by bus - would finally have a dedicated, properly funded national strategy that places buses at the heart of our transport system.
We need cleaner, greener more accessible buses with wifi and onboard charging points; real time information at bus stops and the ability for passengers to plan their journeys online or through their smartphones; buses that connect with other forms of public transport; bus priority measures so that taking the bus is quicker than driving; and we need affordable fares and multi-modal and multi-operator ticketing that simplfies journeys and encourages people who don’t use the bus to start doing so.
We currently have illegal and lethal levels of air pollution which is harming our health and wellbeing, and affecting our economy. If we are to clean up our dirty air and make our towns and cities more pleasant places to live and work we must get more people to ditch their cars and use public transport. A fully loaded double decker bus can remove up to 75 cars from the roads, helping reduce harmful emissions and creating less congested roads, but in order to do this we must make buses a better alternative to driving. A National Bus Investment Strategy would provide the funding, the tools and framework to do this.