Chief executive’s editorial

28 June 2023

Stability please

Yes, can we have plain, boring, steady state stability back please? While stability in the long term can lead to things getting stuck, public transport is in an unstable phase at the moment.

Welcome investment on the railways lead to engineering works. Train companies are in some places, struggling to find sufficient bus replacement services to cover. Buses (and more importantly their drivers), with summer and festivals upon us, are in demand. This has sometimes led to ‘do not travel’ type messages being issued.

At the moment there does not seem to be any regime for monitoring the level and reliability of bus replacement service actually provided – something we are now calling on the rail industry to provide. At least we will have some data to start tracking the provision of replacement vehicles when rail services are suspended.

Ongoing industrial action on bus and rail is simply adding to this instability, hampering longer term planning and draining energy, goodwill and money. All sides need to keep talking. We continue to probe the quality of information around strike days.

Cost pressures on bus operators are now starting to translate into higher fares for passengers too. As I write this we are responding in the media to fare increases by the two major operators across the West Midlands. Our research tells us that many bus passengers do not have easy access to another form of transport. Bus is their lifeline so the impact of higher fares will be keenly felt, and we’re measuring this impact now through our new passenger survey – Your Bus Journey.

Soaring temperatures and heavy downpours remind us that climate remains an issue. We have written a major section in Network Rail’s soon to be published Extreme Heat Task Force report dealing with communication and improving the passenger experience.

More positively National Highways has agreed to fund two years of our lorry driver facilities research. This large scale, benchmarked survey will, as does the existing Motorway Services User Survey, drive up standards. Better rest facilities attract drivers to stop and relax. Rested drivers are safer, and better services will hopefully also bring more people into this crucial industry.

Plus, we are now doing much deeper regional dives into our Strategic Road User Survey to help National Highways focus on the things that will make the greatest difference to most drivers. We hope to publish these soon.


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