Transport User Voice – February 2023 – Chief executive’s editorial

30 January 2023

The future of transport

All our insight work confirms that trade-offs between cost and convenience underpin how we decide to move around. So while sometimes a taxi can seem good value other times it’s the bus or car that wins. Once you have access to a car the convenience factors will often win out. So, what happens if you alter the equation?

Good news. Our latest omnibus survey shows a rise in bus passenger satisfaction with value for money. While it’s early days this is backed up by anecdotes (a colleague’s wife took a bus into Manchester for first time in 40 years – and liked it!). It could be the result of the £2 flat fare initiative recently introduced in England outside of London. Let’s hope that new habits can form which stick and are underpinned by Government funding in the long term.

Our Strategic Roads User Survey measures drivers’ satisfaction with their experiences on National Highways roads. Satisfaction is on a slow upward trend perhaps aided by lower traffic levels than pre pandemic.

As train drivers and some others continue to strike it is not surprising that rail passenger satisfaction has dipped again – measured by our omnibus survey. Patchy (at best) performance around the country unrelated to the strikes has not helped.

Reliability underpins satisfaction with rail as it does with all ways of getting around. You want the journey to take how long it usually takes, how long Google says it should take or what the timetable says. So, the transport industry and governments should, when focusing on today’s user, retain a key focus on reliability.

Tomorrow’s users are looking for a variety of things, but more reliable performance remains a key feature. Our input to the next two phases of five-year spending on road and rail set this out.

Future transport users? We have got that covered as well with a report coming out later this spring. This will be looking at changes and trends in society and how that might affect the way we get around.

Also the Transport Committee recently launched an appeal looking for ideas on what it should investigate for its next in-depth enquiry. Committee members want to hear about subjects they may have never come across before from people in the sector who are in the know about innovations that deserve more attention. So if you have any ideas please do let get in touch. MP Iain Stewart offers more detail in this video.

So, a mixed picture on current transport use. Rail must get back to providing a stable, reliable service. Bus is looking better but concerns remain about long-term financial viability and reducing costs in cities as well as rural areas. While roads are steady National Highways must not lose sight of what those using its roads want.


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