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New bus passenger watchdog cannot stand up for passengers

22 April 2009
As a new watchdog for bus passengers starts today, Campaign for Better Transport is warning that bus users will still be treated as second class compared to other passengers, because their new watchdog will be underfunded and will not deal with complaints appeals.[1] 

Passenger Focus will only have a budget of £2.25 million to support bus passengers in 2010/11, compared to £5.95 million to support rail passengers, even though twice as many journeys are made by bus.[2] That works out as only 9p per 100 bus passenger journeys compared to 48p per 100 rail passenger journeys.

The organisation is leading a call with other national NGOs for Passenger Focus to handle complaints appeals from bus passengers and for the Government to properly fund this.[3] Passenger Focus has not been asked to deal with bus passenger complaints appeals, even though the watchdog provides this service for rail passengers.

Stephen Joseph, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport, said:

“The Government seems to think bus passengers are second-class citizens. Passenger Focus stands up for rail users when train companies have behaved badly but it won’t have the money to ensure that bus passengers get a fair deal. Creating the new bus watchdog is a good first step but it needs to have a proper budget if the Government is serious about helping bus passengers.”

Notes for editors
[1] Campaign for Better Transport led the call for a bus passenger champion which led to its inclusion in the Local Transport Act.  Passenger Focus, a non-departmental public body, is the independent rail passenger watchdog for rail services in the UK and will become the bus passenger watchdog on 22 April for bus services in England, excluding London. The Department for Transport is currently consulting on giving Passenger Focus powers to handle complaints from air passengers.

[2] In 2007/08, 1.2 billion passenger journeys were made on the national rail network and 2.4 billion local bus passenger journeys were made in England, excluding London [Transport Statistics Great Britain]. The bus watchdog budget for 2009/10 is £1.6 million – a lower figure in its first year because it is gradually taking up responsibilities.

[3] Campaign for Better Transport and eight other NGOs have written to Paul Clark, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, calling for bus complaints to be handled by Passenger Focus.