Claire Haigh of Greener Journeys says week-long spotlight on buses will be bigger and better in 2014

Greener Journeys, the sustainable transport group, has a mission to promote more sustainable travel and get people who don’t normally travel by bus to leave the car at home and give it a try. That’s why this Spring the organisation is once again coordinating ‘Catch the Bus Week’, which will run from the April 28 to May 4.

Catch the Bus Week ran for the first time last year and was launched by chief executive of Greener Journeys, Claire Haigh, in conjunction with the then transport minister Norman Baker. Hundreds of bus operators, local authorities and passenger groups – large and small – contributed to making the inaugural week a success across the country. And this year, Haigh says that the second Catch the Bus Week will be even bigger, better, and farther reaching.

“The core aim of Catch the Bus Week 2014 is to promote bus use by increasing awareness and engaging people with the many and varied benefits of travelling by bus,” says Haigh.

“During the week we – alongside bus companies, passenger organisations and local authorities – will be drawing attention to some of the benefits through events, activities, initiatives and media activity.”

It will provide an opportunity to publicise the key benefits of bus travel, which Greener Journeys has expertly rehearsed in recent years.

During Catch the Bus Week 2014 there will more incentives than usual to leave the car at home and give the bus a try. With bus operators, local councils and passenger groups alike supporting the event in their own way, there is set to be a huge range of activities and opportunities across the country. Equally many will be providing information about what bus services are available both to employers and to individuals.

In customary fashion, some operators will be tempting people to give the bus a try with discounted tickets or special deals. Two lucky people will even be able to win a year’s worth of free travel with Chalkwell, a bus and coach operator based in Sittingbourne, Kent.

Charities are also set to benefit. In 2013, First UK Bus set out to raise £20,000 for Macmillan, and in 2014 bus operators will again use Catch the Bus Week to support fund raising for their chosen charities.

Meanwhile, Arriva offered seven ways to catch the bus in a series of entertaining videos. They are still available on YouTube – for example, when the Death Star isn’t practical, Darth Vader knows to hail a bus.

So what’s happening this year? In Wales, Cardiff Bus will be running a ‘Give it a try’ campaign, challenging car drivers to take the bus to work for the week. The local company will also work with local employers to challenge their staff to give the bus a try.

In Devon, there will be a hunt for the county’s best bus driver. The public will be able to nominate drivers who are courteous, helpful, smooth-driving bus drivers, who act with kindness and go beyond the call of duty.

Meanwhile, Stagecoach South West will be inviting primary school children to design a poster telling people why it is better to “catch the bus”. Prizes include book tokens, a chance for winning designs to be displayed on the interior of Stagecoach buses, and the star prize – use of a Stagecoach bus for the day for the class of the winning entrant!

The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg – Catch the Bus Week 2014 will again see a host of new creative ideas with hundreds more poster and radio campaigns, photo challenges, bus-themed dance troupes and road shows amongst other things that will be going on across the UK.”

Get involved: Visit www.catchthebusweek.co.uk or www.greenerjourneys.com to find out more, or email greenerjourneys@mhpc.com

 

Key benefits of bus use: The arguments

Health and wellbeing:

What is, for some, perhaps a surprising boon of travelling by bus is the positive effect if can have on health and wellbeing. Unlike giving up smoking or eating better, the health benefits of bus travel are slower burning but research conducted in 2011 by Dr David Lewis of Mindlab International found daily bus users clock up the annual equivalent of 11 marathons over the course of a year walking to and from a bus stop.

Our mental wellbeing also wins with bus travel. When compared with driving, many find that being able to sit back and not have to focus on the road or worry about where to park is a more relaxing and less stressful way to travel – overall according to additional research by Dr Lewis taking the bus is 33% less stressful than driving.

The economy:

With more people commuting to work by bus than all other forms of public transport combined, bus users generate £64bn of benefits to the UK economy. Buses play a central role in helping people access employment, with almost 2.5 million regularly commuting by bus and a further one million using them as a vital back up.

Supporting the High Street:

Undoubtedly the way we shop has changed, with many of us now going online when previously we would have visited the High Street. However, you still can’t get a haircut over the internet. By providing access to  businesses, be they shops or services, buses support the economy. Greener Journeys estimates that the annual retail spend by GB bus users is £27bn.

The environment:

Buses are a cost-effective way to cut carbon emissions and cut traffic congestion, reducing the carbon footprint from transport and improving local air quality. This is crucial if we want to maximise road space and precious fuel resources and protect the environment.

Congestion costs the UK economy at least £11bn each year, and Greener Journeys argues that if everyone switched just one car journey a month to bus there would be one billion fewer car journeys on our roads – a saving of two million tonnes of CO2 and a serious dent in the congestion crisis facing many towns and cities.

“The terrible floods that struck at the start of the year are an important reminder of the urgency of tackling climate change, and the causes of climate change,” says Greener Journeys chief executive Claire Haigh. “Catching the bus is a relatively simple and easy way to start working towards a greener world.”

Social inclusion and cohesion:

Buses are not just good for us as individuals, they meet important social needs and benefit whole communities. They bring people together and promote social inclusion. Buses provide access to jobs, to training and vital facilities and provide an essential lifeline to those who don’t have access to a car – especially important in improving accessibility for the young, the elderly and those on a low income. Lack of transport can be a serious barrier to looking for work and accessing further education. In 2008, 44% of workless households did not have access to a car or van, compared with 22% of all households.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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