Report finds £2bn bus investment would generate 425 million new bus journeys per year.


Research commissioned by sustainable transport campaign Greener Journeys has found that investing in bus would deliver a significant boost to the economy.

Prior to Covid-19, the bus was the main mode of access to city centres, responsible for a third of city centre expenditure. Bus commuters were generating £64bn in goods and services every year.

However, the impact of months of government urging people to avoid public transport has taken its toll.

The new research undertaken by KPMG shows that £2bn of investment would generate 425 million additional bus journeys per year in England outside of London. Each £1 invested would generate £4.48 in wider social, economic and environmental benefits. All local authority areas in England outside of London could expect to see at least a 20% increase in patronage.

KMPG believes that with the right balance of investment between infrastructure and services, it looks possible to achieve patronage levels achieved in the best performing areas in underperforming areas.

This would involve the allocation of 60%-70% of the £2bn funding to infrastructure projects and 30%-40% to support services and fares. This would also involve 44% of the funding to be allocated to metropolitan areas, 44% to urban/semi-urban areas and 12% to rural areas.

From August 1 employers will be able to decide when their employees can go back to work in the office, and government is relaxing its guidance on avoiding public transport.

However, Greener Journeys is calling on government to be more positive in its messaging and encourage the responsible use of public transport.

We risk replacing one health crisis with another

The group warns that bus patronage today is at just a third of pre-crisis levels, as more people are choosing to drive instead of taking public transport.

“We risk replacing one health crisis with another,” it adds. “Air pollution linked to road traffic causes 40,000 early deaths a year. Diesel cars and vans produce more than two thirds of NOx emissions from transport. Furthermore, recent studies have demonstrated a direct link between long-term exposure to air pollution and higher infection and death rates from COVID-19. The bus is central to tackling air pollution. A modern diesel bus produces fewer NOx emissions overall than a modern diesel car despite being able to carry 20 times more passengers. ”

Greener Journeys adds that if public transport networks suffer long term damage, there will be serious consequences.

A 10% decrease in public transport connectivity is associated with a 3.6% increase in social deprivation; a third of people in the UK have deliberately caught the bus to have some human contact. Rising demand for car and van travel is a key reason why carbon emissions from transport remain high and a double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road.

“The PM may have dropped the avoid public transport message, but he is still encouraging people to use alternative means of transport wherever possible,” said Claire Haigh, chief executive of Greener Journeys. “This won’t be enough to restart the economy. The fundamental role of mass transit in facilitating economic activity is as essential today as it ever was.

“We need a green recovery and that will require a massive shift from private transport to public, shared and active travel. The forthcoming national bus strategy must maximise the potential of the bus to tackle pollution, reduce social deprivation and reignite the economy”.

The report can be read here.

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