Transport User Voice – March 2020 – Chief executive’s editorial

27 February 2020

Money talks but the user voice must still be heard 

The Government’s £5bn investment in more sustainable transport is really good news – at last bus is getting the attention it deserves. The aim now is to ensure the money is spent on the right things to tempt people out of cars. Electric? Yes, but not so good if the bus is still stuck in traffic.

As we know from our West Midlands Give Bus a Go campaign, which has helped push up passenger numbers, whether it be a ‘nudge’, ‘modal shift’ or whatever you want to call it – it is difficult. The alchemy of political will, operator commitment, bus priority, new buses, easy payment, a buzz around bus (Andy Street the Mayor kicked off our campaign at Wolverhampton bus station) and welcoming drivers takes time to achieve but can be done.

We think Government needs to set conditions around this investment, partly based on improving the passenger experience and removing the barriers to choosing bus. Our new bus priorities work will help, as will the ten years’ worth of Bus Passenger Survey now available on our data hub.

The commitment to the first stage of HS2 is also welcome. The new services (on the new and freed-up lines) will simply allow more people to choose rail.

Meanwhile the Government’s Rail Reform White Paper is awaited as Northern will soon pass into public ownership. Don’t expect rapid change – all the underlying issues will still be there, but hopefully a more joined-up approach to track and train will pay off for passengers.

In all of this change the key to success will be to ensure the transport user voice is heard loud and clear – we will make sure that continues to happen.

Our partnership with London TravelWatch

Exciting news. Transport Focus and London TravelWatch have now entered a formal partnership to work more closely together. I am now the chief executive of both organisations and London TravelWatch has a dynamic new director, Emma Gibson.

Over the next few weeks we will be looking at ways to maximise the difference we can jointly make for transport users and reduce duplication. We are already working more closely on some issues, such as accessibility, information during disruption and barriers to bus use and plan to do more in future.

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