Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Seventeenth Report


  1. The 10 Year Plan for Transport contains a number of targets for the bus industry. These have recently been supplemented by further performance targets issued by the Department. The targets are:

  • Increase bus patronage in England by 10 per cent by 2010.
  • Achieve a one-third increase in the proportion of households in rural areas within 10 minutes walk of an hourly or better bus service by 2010.
  • No more than 0.5 per cent of bus services to be cancelled for reasons within the operators' control.
  • Achieve and maintain an average fleet age of 8 years for local bus services.
  • Ensure that 50 per cent of all buses are fully accessible by 2010.
  • Achieve a year-on-year improvement in information at bus stops, based on national passenger satisfaction ratings.

Target for Growth

  1. The number of bus passenger journeys grew by 1 per cent in the year to March 2001.[148] The headline figure hides significant regional variation. Bus use in London grew by 4 per cent over the same period and London accounts for 36 per cent of bus journeys in England.[149] Overall, there was no growth in Metropolitan areas and a 2 per cent decline in shire counties. There has been a more significant drop in bus use in the North of England than elsewhere although bus use in the North is still high compared to other parts of the country.[150] Some encouragement can be taken from the figures as this is the first year since deregulation in1986 when there has not been a decline in bus use in Metropolitan areas. However, shire counties registered the biggest drop in bus use since 1991/92.
  2. The Mayor of London has set a target of achieving a 40 per cent rise in bus use by 2010. If this is achieved, the 10 Year Plan Target for bus use growth could still be met despite a 4 per cent decline in bus use outside London. The Minister told the Sub-Committee "I have to say that looking at the bus operators outside London they are not just saying they can tread water and London will make up the increase and hit the government's targets; I think they are being more ambitious than that".[151] Mr Lockhead agreed noting that "if complementary policies on car restraint are enacted, we are confident we can exceed those targets".[152]
  3. In our previous report 10 Year Plan for Transport, we recommended the introduction of separate targets for bus growth in London and outside London. It is essential that bus use does not merely stabilise outside London but grows, particularly if the bus is to play a meaningful role in reducing traffic congestion and acting as a quality alternative to the car for some journeys. New targets for bus growth outside London are required. These targets should take into account regional variations in conditions. The targets must be challenging and should be set to achieve a minimum of 10 per cent growth in bus use outside London.
  4. Other Targets

  5. The Government's target for increasing the number of rural residents within easy walk of an hourly bus service is based on the desire to increase public transport provision to people who would otherwise be isolated. However, witnesses told the Committee that traditional bus services are not necessarily cost-effective in rural areas and that a scheduled, hourly bus service may not be the best solution.[153] Alternative forms of rural public transport provision are discussed further in the later section on the Department's challenge fund initiatives.
  6. The remaining targets are all linked to providing a quality bus service that will support the growth in public transport use.[154] All of these targets, if met, would represent a welcome improvement on the current state of the industry:

  • In the first half of 2001, in England, 1.4 per cent of bus mileage was lost for reasons within the operator's control (staff, mechanical and traffic related).[155] London performed significantly worse than the rest of England.[156]
  • The average age of the bus fleet was 8.4 years in mid 2001, just under the age of the fleet in 1990. The target contained in the 10 Year Plan was 8 years by June 2001 and has not quite been met. However, 8.4 years represents a significant improvement over the situation in the mid 1990s where the average age had risen to nearly 10 years.[157]
  • Since 2000, any new bus has had to be low-floor accessible.[158]

Whilst these targets represent progress, they are only what should be achieved by a 'customer focussed' industry that wishes to provide a quality bus service. For example, it should be in the bus industry's interest to reduce the amount of scheduled mileage it fails to run. Stagecoach told us that the average working life of a bus is 14 years.[159] This implies that the average age of the fleet could fall as low as 7 years, once existing old stock is replaced. In addition, over 50 per cent of the fleet will be replaced through a standard fleet renewal process over the next 10 years. As all new buses must now be fully accessible, 50 per cent of all buses will be low floor by 2010 simply through the natural replacement cycle of old buses. The Commission for Integrated Transport also believes that there is a danger in concentrating solely on the provision of new buses as a means of improving access for the 8.5 million disabled people in Great Britain.[160] The bus is only one part of the whole journey and may not therefore remove all of the barriers to travel. The Department has set targets for improving bus services, particularly reliability, which are welcome. However, the targets relating to the age and accessibility of the bus fleet are not ambitious and should be revised. The Department must also ensure that all aspects of the bus journey including information, pavement quality and easy access bus shelters are improved to make travel easier, not just the bus.

Safety and Security

  1. Actual and perceived safety and security problems can be a significant barrier to people using public transport. Women and older people feel most vulnerable, particularly at night.[161] The Department believes that safety concerns are deterring around 10 per cent of potential public transport use mainly at off-peak times: this is equal to the growth target set in the 10 Year Plan.[162] It has recently issued guidance to operators on how to improve security on buses.[163]
  2. The Transport and General Workers Union was concerned about the increasing use of weapons in assaults against bus drivers. It believed that the main problem was not the legislation but the ability to catch assailants.[164] Vandalism and attacks also represent a significant cost to bus companies. Stagecoach estimates that vandalism costs it 400,000 per year in Manchester alone.[165] In Manchester and London, Stagecoach have developed joint partnerships with police forces to catch vandals and passengers exhibiting violent conduct. In Manchester, in conjunction with Arriva, a large number of CCTV cameras have been installed on the worst affected routes. Police ride on these routes and so far have made 30 arrests.[166] The Police must give greater priority to reducing anti-social behaviour on and around public transport. Attacks on public transport users and staff are as serious as any other form of anti-social behaviour. Bus companies must use the Department's guidance on improving security in partnership with local authorities and police authorities.

    Around London

  4. The region just outside London has suffered from significant service withdrawals and great instability of services for a variety of reasons. It is characterised by low urban population densities, high car ownership, high labour costs and difficulties in obtaining sites for operating depots.[167] Commercial services thus tend to be infrequent, and charge high fares. Within London, a different regulatory and financial system applies (as described in Chapter II) and hence an exceptionally marked difference exists between fares and service levels within London, and in the immediately adjoining areas, especially where the Greater London boundary passes through continuously built-up areas (as around Epsom in Surrey, or Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire). Surrey County Council told us that last year, 2630 commercial journeys per day were withdrawn. Due to revenue funding shortages it was unable to replace 465 of these.[168]
  5. Transport for London has a statutory duty to provide services running within, and to and from Greater London.[169] It has recently improved cross-boundary services, offering benefits to passengers in terms of lower fares and higher frequencies. However, this has the effect of making remaining commercially-registered services in the fringe area no longer viable, in addition to the general problems facing commercial bus services in the region.[170] All of these issues have contributed to a number of operators in Surrey recently going into receivership:

  • 19 March 2001 - Tillingbourne Buses (60+ vehicles)
  • 22 March 2001 - Surrey Buses (10 vehicles)
  • 27 February 2002 - White Rose Buses (20 vehicles).[171]

  1. There are now no commercially run services inside the M25 in Surrey. Of the 36 routes that operate between Surrey and London, 19 are fully supported by Surrey, 11 by London Buses, and the remainder receive joint funding.[172] The disparity of service quality between services to London and services around the County and the instability of the remaining commercial network has caused a loss of confidence in the bus network in Surrey.[173] Transport for London are consulting on improvements to their cross-boundary services and how it can co-operate further with the local authorities concerned. However, the problem lies largely with the surrounding authorities. Surrey County Council told us that it would consider applying for a quality contract to enable all of the services in its area to be tendered.[174] This would enable all of the bus services to operate on a consistent footing with services to London but it does not have sufficient revenue support from the Government to make this possible.[175] Bus services in the areas surrounding London are a poor relation to those services running into and around the capital. This disparity is difficult for the travelling public to understand. Local authorities surrounding London should develop bus strategies to address these problems including, where appropriate, the use of bus quality contracts. The Department should provide greater revenue support for these new strategies to ensure that a stable network of integrated services is maintained.


148   A bulletin of public transport statistics - DTLR Statistics Bulletin (01) 20 - November 2001. Back

149   IbidBack

150   IbidBack

151   Q435. Back

152   Q433. Back

153   Q155, Q112, Q556. Back

154   New Targets for Better Bus Services, DTLR News Release 2002/0170, 30 April. Back

155   19 million bus kilometres were not run that would have been if the 0.5 per cent target was met. Back

156   A bulletin of public transport statistics - DTLR Statistics Bulletin (01) 20 - November 2001. Back

157   IbidBack

158   Under Part V of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, all new buses for local service placed in service since the end of 2000 have had to provide wheelchair access. In practice, this means that low-floor designs have been adopted. By the start of 2016 all single-deckers will have to met this requirement, and likewise all double-deckers by the start of 2017. In any particular area, the rate of introduction thus depends on the rate of fleet renewal. Back

159   Q37. Back

160   CfIT's Initial Assessment Report on the 10 Year Transport Plan, Commission for Integrated Transport, May 2002. Back

161   IbidBack

162   IbidBack

163   Get on board: an agenda for improving personal security in bus travel, DTLR, 22 April 2002. Back

164   Q392. Back

165   Q18. Back

166   IbidBack

167   BUS 6, BUS 9 and BUS 16. Back

168   BUS 16. Back

169   Q343. Back

170   Q344. Back

171   IbidBack

172   IbidBack

173   Q344 and BUS 16. Back

174   See Chapter IV for discussion on bus quality contracts. Back

175   BUS 16. Back

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