Impact of congestion on bus reliability increasing, say passengers

22 March 2017

Passengers on their local bus may be generally content with their service but congestion and traffic jams are beginning to impact on their overall satisfaction with their bus journey. More than a quarter of journeys in England were held up by congestion.

The latest survey of nearly 47,000 passengers in England and Scotland by the independent watchdog is published today at an event in Liverpool.

David Sidebottom, director of the independent watchdog, said: “Passengers tell us they want a frequent, punctual and reliable service which offers value for money: the ‘core product’. The results show that despite satisfaction levels remaining high, increasing road congestion and the impact of road works is hitting the ability to deliver these basics in some of our towns and major cities.

While 87 per cent of all passengers in England were satisfied with their local bus service (86 per cent in 2015), congestion is impacting on passenger ratings for punctuality and waiting times in those places. Satisfaction with punctuality ranged from 65 per cent to 84 per cent (averaging 73 per cent) which is down from an average of 75 per cent in 2015.

He continued: “We have seen some excellent initiatives of bus operators and local authorities working together to deal with the challenges facing their areas such as congestion. The West Midlands Bus Alliance and the newer Liverpool City Region Bus Alliance are examples of partnership working that should become easier once the forthcoming Bus Services Act is implemented in England. Such a concerted effort, combined with the survey results, should help achieve one of the aims of the legislation – to improve the passenger experience.”

The good news is that in some areas satisfaction with value for money is improving. There are indications this may be helped by operators and authorities introducing simple, affordable flat fare deals for younger passengers in places such as Milton Keynes. We are due to ask young people aged between 14 and 19 what they need and expect from public transport and bus travel specifically. This new research, expected in the summer, will help us better understand young people’s priorities.

In Scotland, we surveyed over 9,000 passengers from the Highlands to Dumfries and Galloway, with overall passenger satisfaction at 90 per cent. Satisfaction with punctuality since our last survey in 2014 has fallen from 86 to 80 per cent, mainly attributable to traffic congestion and roadworks and satisfaction with value for money at 68 per cent. We hope that the passenger experience from the survey will assist bus companies and policy makers in driving forward improvements for bus users.



Notes to editors

The Bus Passenger Survey Autumn 2016
The survey report will be available on our website from the embargo (12 noon, 22 March) from the link below. Copies of the full report are available on request.

We spoke to around 37,000 passengers across 42 areas and operations in England outside of London to assess their overall satisfaction with their local bus service. It also assessed their satisfaction for a wide range of aspects including value for money, the bus stop, waiting for the bus, on the bus, outside the bus and the bus driver. We also carried out extensive work to understand the views of nearly 10,000 bus passengers in Scotland for the second time.

Bus Passenger Survey Liverpool event
The survey is being published at a briefing event with Merseytravel in Liverpool on 22 March 2017. It will highlight the work of the Liverpool City Region Bus Alliance and how the survey will play a part in identifying the bus passenger experience locally.

Liverpool City Region Bus Alliance
Last year Arriva, Stagecoach and Merseytravel signed a new five-year agreement which will involve investing £25m work of investment in bus services in the first year. They aim to deliver improved, more efficient, joined-up and better value services so passengers will benefit from modern bus fleets, new services, smart ticking and Wi-Fi. The bus operators have signed up to targets on increased patronage, punctuality and improved passenger satisfaction: they aim to be ‘the best in class’.

West Midlands Bus Alliance
The Bus Alliance Board in the West Midlands is made up of representatives from the region’s bus operators, the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Police and Local Enterprise Partnerships. The Board is chaired by Transport Focus.

The Alliance will see £150m invested by operators and partners between now and 2021. It will also develop a multi-million pound package of measures to improve bus speeds and make journeys more reliable for customers across the region. Some of its key objectives include increase bus patronage by five per cent; ensuring customer satisfaction levels remaining at over 85 per cent as measured by Transport Focus’s Bus Passenger Survey.

Bus Services Act
One aim of the Bus Services Bill, currently passing through Parliament, is to improve the passenger experience. The Bill contains provisions to strengthen arrangements for partnership working in the sector, introducing ‘enhanced partnerships’; introduce new franchising powers with decision making at a local level; to provide for a step change in the information available to bus passengers.

Transport Focus is the independent consumer organisation representing the interests of:
• all users of England’s motorways and major ‘A’ roads (the Strategic Road Network)
• rail passengers in Great Britain
• bus, coach and tram users across England outside London.
We work to make a difference for all transport users.

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