Bus services vital to creating connectivity, says business

The importance of the bus to the UK economy was presented to the House of Commons this week with a new five point plan for economic growth.

The Buses and Economic Growth report, undertaken for sustainable travel campaign group Greener Journeys by the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, revealed earlier this year that more people commute to work by bus than all other public transport combined; bus commuters generate over £64bn of economic output and 400,000 people are in better more productive jobs as a result of the bus (PT036).

Drawing on the key findings from the report, Greener Journeys has produced a five-point plan for growth (see below).

Transport minister Norman Baker said: “Buses are the mainstay of the public transport sector, carrying millions of passengers every day for business and leisure as well as helping to cut carbon by reducing congestion and replacing car journeys. And crucially, as this report highlights, buses are a keystone to the economy.

Rhian Kelly, director of business environment for the CBI, said   “We’ve all been thinking about how to re-balance our economy, create more connectivity and revitalise our communities.
What this report does is articulate the vital role of public buses in underpinning this activity. It reminds us that buses play an important role in supporting our towns and city centres. Indeed, more people access the high street by bus than any other mode.”

Sir Brian Souter, Stagecoach chief executive, said: “Every pound invested in buses is an investment in the future of our communities, our high streets
and city centres, our young people and our country’s economy.

“We need more joined up thinking across government, better partnerships between transport operators, local authorities and business, and a focus on practical measures that make the bus the travel mode of choice.”

 

THE FIVE POINT PLAN

1. Creating the right public policy framework

  • The wider economic impacts of the bus system need to be captured in to the appraisal and allocation of funds for bus infrastructure projects and consideration of the case for Bus Service Operator Grant (BSOG)
  • To provide adequate revenue funding in addition to capital funding streams to enable the ‘full bus package’ to be implemented.
  • To conduct joined-up thinking across different government departments on the role of the bus in helping the economy (e.g. DfT, HM Treasury, BIS, DWP, DfE, DCLG and DoH).
  • Planning decisions on new developments to consider fully the critical role of public transport in giving employers access to a wide and diverse labour market and giving people access to jobs.

2. Meeting the needs of bus passengers

  • Good value fares to be maintained to ensure accessibility of bus services to low-income commuters and young people in particular
  • Where feasible, smart attractively priced multi-operator ticketing should be introduced
  • Local implementation of pro-bus policies

3. Supporting the bus in its vital role in the labour market

  • Taxation incentives for travelling by bus
  • Increased take-up of workplace travel plans and for the bus to be considered and promoted as a core option within them
  • Travel planning assistance and fares offers for school leavers and unemployed people to help connect them to education, training and the job market

4. Enabling businesses and local retail economies to benefit from bus services

  • LEPs to prioritise funding for bus infrastructure projects to optimise the role of the bus in helping to create the right environment for business growth in their areas
  • Business Improvement Districts to use part of their levies to help fund bus improvements
  • Town Centre Management Groups to include the bus as part of their town centre transport access strategies

5. Building strong alliances across bus operators, businesses and local government

  • An effective and locally appropriate framework for closer working between local business community, local bus operators and local authorities
  • Stronger corporate ownership of responsibilities for sustainable transport policies
  • Better monitoring of bus users by employers and retail/town centre management groups

 

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport. Click here to subscribe.