Is your local service under threat, or do you want to campaign for better services? Then contact us for help and advice. With public transport patronage having fallen through the floor due to Covid, getting passengers back on the bus is going to be incredibly important, especially if we are not going to be choked by even greater car use.
Bus Back Better
However, all is not lost. The Government published its first ever national bus strategy for England, Bus Back Better in March 2021. It has set a number of challenges which if backed up by funding could put the bus back at the centre of local transport provision. Firstly, local councils have to agree a Bus Services Improvement Plan (BSIP) by October 2021 which has to be reviewed and reported on every 6 months (guidance on this has now been published). Councils also have to enter into an Enhanced Partnership agreement with local operators by April 2022. These will be very challenging for authorities who have had to cut back their transport teams after yeas of austerity.
Spiral of decline
There have been large cuts in supported services over the past decade which are mostly funded by local authorities, often uneconomic or more marginal, often in the evenings and weekends, and very often rural. On top of this the Government has reduced the amount it pays for concessionary bus passes which has made a number of previously commercial services unviable, even when they were well used. The final straw for many operators has been the rise in congestion caused by Government spending on roads and cuts in fuel duty. This has created a vicious circle of fewer passengers, more cars and congestion, slower and more expensive buses and so on.
This triple whammy has hit bus services hard and resulted in the loss of many services, increased prices and unreliable and delayed services as the annual bus statistics show. The result has been that many communities, including some sizeable villages, have found themselves isolated in public transport deserts. Young and old have been left stranded unless they can afford, often expensive, taxi fares.
Campaigning for change
Depending on your circumstances and the type of service you are trying to protect or want to see provided, there are a number of different things you can do.
CPRE have launched a new campaign Every village, every hour to try to get local government to start taking buses seriously and not as some nice to have afterthought. It's worth getting in touch with them especially if you live in a rural area and to sign their petition. The WI are also active on this issue with their Get on board campaign.
Campaign for Better Transport's Save our Buses Campaign Pack is well worth a look, but if you can't find what you are after please get in touch. If you live in London the issues are slightly different as bus services are franchised so Transport for London has control over services and ticket prices. Elsewhere, while franchising can be an option, often the powers have to be requested and a case made for this to happen under the Bus Services Act 2017. Campaign for Better Transport has produced some guidance on the Act as well as a report on the future of rural bus services.
Finally, if you live in Manchester, you might want to get involved with the Better Buses for Greater Manchester campaign which is arguing for greater regulation to simplify ticketing, better timetabling and more evening and weekend services amongst other things.