Back Better Bus – supporting the improvements bus passengers want

24 January 2022

Back in 2019, the Government announced an array of improvements that would transform bus services for passengers – simpler fares, thousands of new buses, better routes, and higher frequencies. Bus Back Better was the National Bus Strategy designed to deliver superior bus services for passengers across England. Fast forward to the present day and the Government and bus industry has a bigger job on their hands than anyone could have imagined.

As 2022 gets off to an unsteady start for transport, a recent blog by Urban Transport Group, An unhappy new year for public transport?, lays out the hurdles that operators and the Government are facing. From driver shortages to reduced patronage, there are significant challenges. So, what can be done to help deliver these improvements for passengers?

Transport Focus has listened to passengers’ priorities, which have shaped and influenced the Government’s current bus strategy. We’ve carried out years of research on passengers’ satisfaction with local bus services and continue to do so today. Our Bus User Weekly Survey asks passengers across Great Britain about their experiences of travelling by bus and how satisfied they were with their most recent journey (made in the last seven days).

Our work has underlined operators’ and authorities’ Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs) and Enhanced Partnerships. Altogether we engaged directly with all but six local authorities in England (outside London) as they developed their BSIPs. In fact, a recent review shows Transport Focus was mentioned in 64 out of the 76 BSIPs (three of which are joint plans). Within those 64, there were 497 mentions of our work.

Listening to passenger feedback is vital to ensuring operators meet the challenges raised in the aforementioned blog. It’s something we highlighted in our publication Bus passengers’ priorities for improvement and as a result of that, we have applied a consistent process for evaluation and response in ensuring passenger priorities are represented at all stages of consultation in the National Bus Strategy.

Whatever finances are available to help make the bus more attractive for both users and non-users, must be used sensibly. Improving local bus services is not a one-off event but a continuous process. But Transport Focus will be working continuously for prioritised investment and improved bus services for passengers.

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