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Bucking bus decline in the West Midlands

Transport Focus is encouraging people in the West Midlands to Give Bus A Go.

So it is very pleasing that the number of people catching the bus in the West Midlands is increasing, bucking the trend nationally as many cities and towns are seeing decline. Recent government data showed an increase of almost eight million journeys over the last year, with passenger numbers rising to 267.1 million up from 259.3 million during the previous 12 months.

Ensuring passenger priorities are at the heart of the West Midlands Bus Alliance, chaired by my colleague Linda McCord, is making bus travel a more attractive choice for people. This means aiming to make journeys quicker and easier, providing better value for passengers, making buses more appealing for young people and to drive investment in buses to both reduce emissions and increase comfort.

The Bus Alliance is a partnership between Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), bus operating companies, Transport Focus and the Safer Travel Team. The partnership is the driving force behind many of the improvements that passengers are experiencing which include:

  • millions of pounds having been invested in highways and junctions, including the new Harborne bus lanes, to reduce bottlenecks and improve reliability of services
  • the introduction of low-fare zones and a decision to extend half-price travel to all 16 to 18 year olds
  • convenient payment by mobile phone, the Swift travel card and contactless cards and live timetable apps which all help make bus travel easier.

We know from our yearly Bus Passenger Survey that people who use bus rate it highly. Almost nine out of ten bus users told the survey that they were satisfied with their most recent journey. Research also indicated that around a fifth of car journeys could well be made by bus. Despite this, many people don’t view the bus as a transport mode of choice.

Reducing barriers to bus travel is vital – to help more people choose bus and make buses a more attractive and sustainable choice.

That is why Transport Focus is running a bus campaign in the West Midlands ‘Give Bus A Go’. The first phase of this saw nine people, the busketeers, who rarely or never travel by bus agree to do so and their experience was largely positive, as expressed by Bernie:

‘Giving bus a go has been a pleasant experience as the buses and planning apps have been greatly modernised making the experience of using the buses more enjoyable than I remember 10 years ago.’

Most have said they will continue to use buses for various journeys. Our volunteers shared some brilliant experiences that have been shared with the Bus Alliance partners to further improve bus services.

We are continuing our campaign this year targeting businesses to encourage their staff to ‘Give Bus A Go’.

More about this will be shared at an event in the West Midlands in March as we celebrate ten years of our Bus Passenger Survey impacting on bus improvements across the country.

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