Save the planet and take the bus!…Is anyone listening? 

07 January 2019

Last week the Oxford Bus Company made a very interesting new pitch: ‘make one promise’. This is built around fare cuts to support people taking the bus ‘to help ease congestion and pollution in the county’.

A really good example was highlighted in the publicity material – the City 5 service now takes 88 minutes to do the round trip from the railway station to Blackbird Leys – in 2012 it took 72 minutes. Congestion is making operating bus services less and less viable. The Transport Focus Bus Passenger Survey confirms that slower services (due to issues like congestion) are sapping satisfaction with waiting times and punctuality in many parts of the country and with journey times in others, such as Oxfordshire. 

So, will car drivers respond? During years of work Transport Focus has seen that everyone will make transport choices based around the four ‘C’s’ – choice, cost, convenience and control. At different times and on different journeys we make different choices. Work done some years ago on rail passengers and the environment was brief. Environmental issues helped validate choice but did not drive choices. Most passengers were unaware if their train was electric or diesel. If the car made sense, then people take the car. 

Transport Focus firmly believes in improving the quality of all transport modes so people simply have better journeys and lives. People will choose bus, train or tram because it is the best consumer choice, rarely because of an environmental concern. Usage of the on-demand service in Oxford based around the Pickmeup App seems to confirm this. For some it’s a cheaper taxi. For others it’s a better bus. Either way they are responding to the price, convenience, choice and control it offers. 

So will things be different in Oxford? Maybe it has a local population that is more susceptible to these messages…but there are always lots of cars around when I go there, so I am not sure that is true. However, the price cuts up to January 26th may prove more tempting. 

For example, the CityZone 12 trip ticket is down £3 to £12. Park & Ride 12 trips now £12 down from £14.50. South Oxfordshire Zone 12 trips reduced from £21 to £18.  

Simply put, too many bus journeys are either too expensive or too inconvenient to take due to the slow speed of travel. An electric bus stuck in a traffic jam is still a bus going nowhere! The Government and local authorities must take the opportunity offered by a need to tackle quality issues, but the services must work for consumers.  

Otherwise people will find other ways to travel or simply stay put. 


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