Bus services in England outside London

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House of Commons Transport Committee

Bus services in England outside London

Ninth Report of Session 2017?19

Report, together with formal minutes relating to the report

Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 15 May 2019

HC 1425 Published on 22 May 2019 by authority of the House of Commons

Transport Committee

The Transport Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Department for Transport and its associated public bodies.

Current membership Lilian Greenwood MP (Labour, Nottingham South) (Chair) Jack Brereton MP (Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent South) Ruth Cadbury MP (Labour, Brentford and Isleworth) Robert Courts MP (Conservative, Witney) Ronnie Cowan MP (Scottish National Party, Inverclyde) Steve Double MP (Conservative, St Austell and Newquay) Paul Girvan MP (Democratic Unionist Party, South Antrim) Huw Merriman MP (Conservative, Bexhill and Battle) Grahame Morris MP (Labour, Easington) Graham Stringer MP (Labour, Blackley and Broughton) Daniel Zeichner MP (Labour, Cambridge)

Powers The committee is one of the departmental select committees, the powers of which are set out in House of Commons Standing Orders, principally in SO No 152. These are available on the internet via www.parliament.uk.

Publication ? Parliamentary Copyright House of Commons 2019. This publication may be reproduced under the terms of the Open Parliament Licence, which is published at www.parliament.uk/copyright. Committee reports are published on the Committee's website at www.parliament.uk/transcom and in print by Order of the House. Evidence relating to this report is published on the inquiry publications page of the Committee's website.

Committee staff The current staff of the Committee are Gordon Clarke (Committee Clerk), Ed Faulkner (Second Clerk), Louise Butcher (Senior Committee Specialist), Nerys Davies (Committee Specialist), Deborah Courtney (Senior Committee Assistant), Michelle Owens, (Committee Assistant), Estelle Currie (Senior Media Officer) and Oliver Florence (Media Officer).

Contacts All correspondence should be addressed to the Clerk of the Transport Committee, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. The telephone number for general enquiries is 020 7219 3266; the Committee's email address is transcom@parliament.uk. You can follow the Committee on Twitter using @CommonsTrans

Bus services in England outside London 1



Conclusions and recommendations


1 Introduction


Our inquiry


2 Delivering bus services


Bus use in England outside London


Bus operating models


Bus Services Act 2017--Franchising


Bus Services Act 2017--Partnership working


Voluntary bus partnerships


3 Funding of bus services


Certainty of funding


Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG)


Concessionary fare reimbursement


Total Transport


Bidding for grants for bus services


Socially necessary services


4 Barriers to travel



Modal shift


Bus priority measures


Moving traffic offences


Information about buses


Sources of information


Real Time Information


Audio Visual announcements


Drivers' role in providing information


Tickets and fares


Young people's fares


5 Planning and buses


6 A bus strategy


Formal minutes



Published written evidence


List of Reports from the Committee during the current Parliament


Bus services in England outside London 3


The deregulation of bus services outside London in the 1980s was meant to address the steady decline in bus use since the 1950s and bring in a new era of bus travel. In the 1984 Buses White Paper the then Government asserted that:

Without the dead hand of restrictive regulation fares could be reduced now on many bus routes and the operator would still make a profit. New and better services would be provided. More people would travel.

[...] bus operators will look keenly to see where and when people want to travel. If one operator fails to provide a service that is wanted, another will.1

Successive governments have stuck with deregulation, but the promised benefits have never materialised. Deregulation has, at best, done little more than slow the decline in bus use.

Without buses people would not be able to get to work, places of education, healthcare appointments or travel for leisure or social reasons. Nearly three in every five journeys by public transport in Great Britain were by bus in 2017/18. However, in most parts of England bus use is falling and hundreds of bus routes have been withdrawn. This has direct consequences for people's lives. Without buses people face the unpalatable choice of using cars and taxis or giving up work or educational opportunities entirely. This also narrows their choice around such opportunities. We heard that buses are not reliable, making it difficult for people to get to work or medical appointments on time. We also heard that routes are often too far from people's work, home, school, college or other places they need to visit.

If this trend continues not only will it make it difficult for those who use the bus the most--and particularly those who, for economic, social or health reasons, have no alternative--it will have both economic and environmental impacts. It would reduce economic growth and make congestion and air quality worse as people move from buses to cars and taxis.

In most places local authorities help to fund socially necessary services, where such services are not being provided on a commercial basis by a bus operator. Financial pressure on all non-statutory council services is, however, putting such routes at risk. Routes are being withdrawn, or their frequency reduced, and the communities they serve are becoming isolated.

Bus passengers want reliable and timely services, they want to know when and where a bus will turn up. Congestion is not the only reason that buses can be unreliable, but it has a major impact on reliability. Unlike other factors, like bus or driver availability, bus operators can do little to address it. Tackling congestion, by using bus priority measures or encouraging people out of cars and onto buses--modal shift--will not only improve reliability but will also improve air quality. Better bus reliability could encourage other people to leave their car at home and take the bus instead, further reducing congestion.

1 Department of Transport, Buses, Command paper 9300, July 1984 paras 1.4?1.6