Over 160 bus operators, local authorities and transport groups are signed up for the third sector-wide Catch the Bus Week

 

ctbw

Iain Stewart, MP for Milton Keynes South, showed his support in 2014

 

By CLAIRE HAIGH, Greener Journeys

This summer, Catch the Bus Week is hitting the road once more. The sector-wide initiative sees passenger groups, bus operators and local authorities coming together to celebrate the value of the bus, and to inspire the British public to make the switch to the bus that week. This year’s campaign will run from June 29 until July 5, during which time supporters will focus on encouraging the public to hop on the bus!

Greener Journeys is dedicated to promoting more sustainable travel and getting people who don’t normally travel by bus to leave the car at home and give it a try. This summer, we are coordinating Catch the Bus Week to spur the whole bus sector into action, culminating in a range of promotional activity and events geared towards getting people out of cars and onto the bus.

Now in its third year running, Catch the Bus Week continues to be a huge success. Last year, we witnessed unprecedented support from almost 100 bus companies, passenger organisations and local authorities. This resulted in a wave of activity taking place across the country, including a range of events, ticket giveaways and community engagement campaigns. The campaign was a triumph in terms of reach and impact, with widespread coverage, social media chatter and even a quantifiable uplift in the number of bus users. We used the campaign to highlight the health benefits of taking the bus, which was promoted by Catch the Bus Week ‘Ambassadors’, Olympian Anna Watkins MBE and behavioural expert Dr David Lewis. With the help of a noted bus travel expert we also developed a campaign revealing the 10 best bus routes in Britain.

A central tenet of the campaign last year was encouraging engagement with parliamentarians. We launched the campaign with the then transport minister Baroness Kramer and key Catch the Bus Week supporters photographed with the Transport for London ‘Year of the Bus’ Silver Routemaster outside the Houses of Parliament. In addition, many MPs held constituency surgeries on board a local bus, with others demonstrating their support on social media or through local media.

As coordinator of Catch the Bus Week, we were inspired by the creativity with which supporters marked Catch the Bus Week in 2014. In Devon, the county council teamed up with Stagecoach South West to offer primary school children the chance to design a poster, inspiring people to ‘catch the bus’ that week. There was even a hunt to find the county’s best bus driver. Chalkwell Bus Company demonstrated their support for CTBW by offering two lucky travellers the chance to win a year’s worth of free travel around Kent.  In the Tees Valley area, the crying bus driver campaign urged people onto buses with tongue-in-cheek pictures of weeping bus drivers, distraught as they were deprived of the opportunity to get people to their destinations!

This year, operators and local authorities up and down the country have planned exciting promotional activity to mark the initiative. Buckinghamshire County Council have planned a bus selfie competition, with the most inventive selfie-taker earning themselves four weeks of free bus travel. In Leicestershire, the council’s Summer Savers promotion will run during the week, and in Middlesbrough town centre, Darlington Council are marking the start of the week with a performance from local dance troupe, Dimensions! With over 160 operators, local authorities and transport groups signed up for Catch the Bus Week 2015, we can’t wait to see the various campaigns that are planned around the country. 

But Catch the Bus Week isn’t just about fantastic marketing activity. The success of previous campaigns has relied on the engagement of the Great British public as well as the various groups in the bus industry. Much of this excitement will come from social media chatter, so make sure you share your experience, using the hashtag #CTBW to signpost your activity. Catch the Bus Week is an opportunity to galvanise the whole bus world, and ensure that the value of bus travel is well and truly on the map. So hop on a bus, tweet about your Catch the Bus Week experience and tell everyone to get involved too!

 

KEY BENEFITS OF BUS USE

Economic

Buses are the lifeblood of the UK economy, playing a central role in helping people access employment, shops and services. Every day, almost 2.5 million people all over Britain travel to work by bus, which is more than all other forms of public transport combined, generating £64bn of benefits to the UK economy. While clearly the way we shop has changed, with many of us now going online when previously we would have visited the high street, you still can’t get a haircut over the internet. Indeed, every year bus users make 1.4 billion shopping trips and spend an estimated £27bn on retail goods.

Community

As well as being good for us as individuals, buses meet important social needs and benefit whole communities. For instance, young people, older people, those on low incomes and jobseekers are heavily dependent on the bus to provide access to jobs, training, services and friends and family. In fact, a lack of transport can be a serious barrier to looking for work and accessing further education – in 2008 the Office for National Statics found 44% of workless households do not have access to a car or van compared with 22% of all households. 

Health and wellbeing

Catching the bus has a positive effect on your health and wellbeing. To start with walking to and from a bus stop is physically good for you. Research conducted by Dr David Lewis of Mindlab International in 2011 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 each day. Not only that, but Dr Lewis’ research shows that it can also be great for mental wellbeing as travelling by bus, which brings the ability to sit back and relax, is a third less stressful than driving.

Green

Bus travel is a great way to cost-effectively go green. By reducing traffic congestion, and therefore emissions, Britain’s carbon footprint from transport is reduced which, in turn, improves local air quality. This is crucial if we want to maximise road space and precious fuel resources and protect the environment in the long-term. If everyone switched just one car journey a month to bus that would be one billion fewer car journeys on our roads, and a saving of two million tonnes of CO2 and a serious dent in the congestion crisis facing many towns and cities. Let’s not forget that congestion alone costs the UK economy at least £11bn each year.

 

GET INVOLVED

For more information about ideas or ways to get involved, please visit www.catchthebusweek.co.uk and get in touch via contact@greenerjourneys.com to let us know your plans for supporting Catch the Bus Week.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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