One year since Bus Back Better: charity calls for ‘back on board’ message

On the first anniversary (15 March) of the Government’s national bus strategy, Bus Back Better, Campaign for Better Transport is warning that reduced passenger numbers could lead to big service cuts without a national government-led campaign to get people back on board.

Silviya Barrett, Head of Policy at Campaign for Better Transport, said:

“Bus Back Better was commendably ambitious, recognising the importance of buses to improving social equality, boosting economic activity and protecting the environment. But unless passenger numbers recover, those ambitions could end up withering on the vine. That’s why we’re calling on the Government to run a national campaign to encourage people back on board and give buses a bright future.”

As required by Bus Back Better, all 79 local transport authorities in England submitted Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs) which outlined how they intend to transform local bus services and included measures like providing better passenger information, introducing bus priority schemes, improving the frequency of services and providing cheaper fares. Out of the £3 billion promised by the strategy, the Government has allocated £1.15 billion for these improvements, but how the funding will be shared between local authorities is not yet known and some are likely to miss out entirely, despite all being asked to produce plans.

Campaign for Better Transport is warning that unless the Government steps in with a campaign to attract passengers back to public transport, the £1.15 billion to improve local buses could instead end up being used to prop up existing services that are no longer commercially viable.

Ms Barrett continued:

“Every community deserves good bus services. To avoid widening the gap between the haves and have-nots when it comes to bus provision, it is vital that smaller authorities, whose proposals may not be top of the pack, are not penalised. Local authorities that do not receive BSIP funding at this stage should be given additional, dedicated funding and support to overcome barriers they may face to improving their bus services to ensure no community is left behind.”