Bus woes – what we want next?

06 February 2020

I chaired the Transport Times bus summit today – great to see so much energy around bus, the workhorse of our economy. Today we also welcomed further details on how the Government will spend its £170m Better Bus Fund.

Today we shared the first part of our work on bus passengers’ priorities for the future. Bus passengers like the bus, but would use it even more if they ran more reliably and more often.

With that in mind it was disappointing to hear that the west of England is still suffering poor performance from its bus networks.

Just over a year ago James Freeman from First West of England apologised for the performance of buses in Bristol and the wider region and the impact it had on passengers. Today we see the same. I wrote to local bus operators to press for action.

The flagship Metrobus has been subject to serious delays in South Gloucestershire as a result of heavy congestion and roadworks, even leaving passengers stranded.

We know that passengers are frustrated – the West of England scored poorly in last year’s Bus Passenger Survey and yet we continue to see the same headlines a year later.

Passengers want reliable bus services they can trust to travel around this region. Negative headlines reinforce the idea for non-users that bus is not an option. For this reason we urge the local authorities and First West of England to work together to tackle the impact congestion is having on the delivery of bus services across the area. In particular we want to see:

  • a consistent approach to the management of the highway network – passengers don’t recognise administrative boundaries and expect local councils to work together to manage traffic
  • actively manage roadworks to minimise disruption
  • enforcement of bus stops, bus lanes and waiting restrictions so that buses are not held up by indiscriminate parking.
  • provision of bus priority to protect buses from the congestion hotspots
  • improved communication to passengers when disruption does occur.

We have written to local authorities to get this sorted. We urge all parties to come together and work towards stabilising the performance of the bus network in the region. Short-term direct action is now needed to restore passengers’ trust.

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