Transport User Voice – August 2018 – Seeking better local bus services

31 July 2018

Buses offer a vital lifeline to many, in terms of accessing employment, education and health services, yet r we are seeing decline in bus use across the UK. The recent Bus Services Act 2017 offers greater powers to local authorities to work in partnership with bus operators with a hope of reversing this decline, as well as the option for franchising bus services.

However, over the last few years, local authority transport budgets have come under significant pressure; councils have had to make tough choices about how best to protect the bus services they support. Passengers have been at the sharp end of those decisions.

So what have we done and are doing right now to address this challenge?

Alternative forms of transport

In 2011 we published Rural bus services, comparing the views of passengers using Herefordshire Council’s tendered market day buses with others using Shropshire Council’s demand-responsive Shropshire Link buses.

Last year we took a more in-depth look at some alternative ways of spending the local transport budget in Demand responsive transport: users’ views of pre-booked community buses and shared taxis.

Consulting passengers

In October 2012, in response to a recommendation from the House of Commons Transport Committee, we published Bus service reviews: consulting on changes to local services, a best practice toolkit.  Then, last year, we followed it up with Bus service reviews: consulting on changes to local services, progress report in which we reported on consultations carried out by 30 local authorities over the past four years and highlighted best practice.

Impacts on passengers

In Bus Service reductions – the impact on passengers, published in July 2012, we explored the experience of around 350 passengers in Derbyshire, Suffolk, Somerset and West Sussex affected by service cuts.

Now seems to be an appropriate moment to take stock.

We have therefore written to all transport authorities in England, outside of London, to see if they have recently had to consult on cutting back the level of support for bus services and if they have immediate plans to do so. In addition, we are keen to understand the contribution that demand responsive transport could make to meeting local transport needs.

Transport Focus are working in several areas to support bus partnership working by focusing on what is important to local bus passengers. It is crucial for industry and authority figures to work together to find innovative ways to support the provision of general bus services to help reverse the current decline in usage. We are therefore asking authorities if they need support in developing partnership proposals.

We recognise that authorities face continuing challenges as they seek to carry on meeting the needs of bus passengers with dwindling resources and we are keen to help in any way we can by drawing attention to our research findings and highlighting examples of best practice.

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