Unlike rail, roads, walking and cycling, our most-used form of public transport is not currently supported by a national strategy, which is part of the reason why buses have suffered declines in services and rising fares.
For years, Campaign for Better Transport has led calls for a National Bus Strategy, and last year our hard work paid off when the Government announced it would deliver a National Bus Strategy for England. With the Strategy due to be published this year, we've been working with Government to ensure that it is as beneficial as possible for bus users.
What should a National Bus Strategy contain?
A National Bus Strategy would give this vital transport mode the attention it deserves. It has the potential to protect and improve services, make bus travel affordable for more people, and transform the UK's bus fleet to run on electricity and hydrogen, cleaning up our polluted air.
Our recent report, The future of the bus, looked at what policy and fiscal measures should be included in a national strategy in order to help local authorities and bus operators increase ridership, integrate buses with other modes and set a path to zero emissions. These include:
- A bus manufacturing sector deal to make the UK a world leader in zero emission buses
- A deadline of 2025 for a zero emission bus fleet facilitated by a fleet and depot overhaul programme
- Smart ticketing and mobility credits to reduce the cost of travel
- Support for local authorities both in terms of local multi-year funding and capacity building
- National innovation and integration funding to ensure buses are part of the transport network of the future.
Buses are the backbone of our public transport network, but if they are to keep the country moving they need central Government support. A National Bus Strategy, backed up by a three- to five-year funding settlement, should give local authorities and bus operators the ability to plan for years to come and ensure the sustainability of critical services while stemming cuts and working to increase patronage.