Supplementary memorandum by the National
Federation of Bus Users (Bus 08A)
1. In our experience bus users require above
all that their services should be reliable and punctual
A third of all the complaints we receive concern
buses which are late or do not turn up at all. It is an issue
that crops up at virtually every surgery and bus users meeting
we organise. Passengers are also deeply concerned about service
losses but the percentage of complaints is rather less at 12 per
cent. In our view the most important problem to address is the
failure to provide buses with the priority they must have over
other traffic to deliver better standards of reliability.
2. The urgent need for a better operating
environment for buses
There is little point in giving the traffic
commissioners powers to penalise operators for not running 95
per cent of their services within a few minutes of scheduled time
if buses have to face adverse traffic conditions which can vary
from day to day and place to place. Moreover, if buses had more
dedicated road space, fewer services would be cut or withdrawn
because they had become commercially unsustainable or impossible
to operate reliably.
The Congestion Busters Campaign we carried out
last year revealed the seriousness of the problem. As Professor
David Begg of the CFIT has pointed out, the Government's targets
for increasing bus use will not be met without a more serious
attempt to provide a better operating environment for buses coupled
with measures to restrain car use. Road charging for example could
reduce congestion by a quarter but so far only London has had
the courage to go for it.
General congestion costs have been quantified
for the national economy at a rate of several billion pounds.
Clearly it has a specific cost for the public transport industry
and the bus passenger. Individual bus companies have estimated
that up to 10 per cent of their fleet are required simply to cope
with the effects of congestionthis is quite probable when
you consider that a route requiring 10 buses in a free traffic
flow may well require at least one extra vehicle to maintain service
frequencies, when journey times are slowed down by congestion.
According to the most recent statistics there are 78,100 registered
PSVs in the UK. Extrapolating from these figures would suggest
that there are therefore 7,810 PSVs in the UK required to cope
with congestion. Assuming an average operating cost of £70,000
per vehicle per annum this equates to nearly £550 million
of public transport resources tied up in an inefficient way. While
the precise figure may be debatable, this is a substantial cost.
The introduction of extensive and effective bus priority would
release these resources to provide either an increased level of
service on existing corridors or an extension of network coverage,
possibly meeting social exclusion objectives for the same cost.
This would have a real effect in meeting the government's target
of a model switch from the private car to more sustainable modes.
We need real leadership from local and national
government to take effective action in face of pockets of opposition
from local car users and tradersthe latest public attitude
survey carried out by Mori for the CFIT will reveal that 82 per
cent of the 1,725 people interviewed back park and ride schemes
and 57 per cent support more bus lanes in town centres even though
they leave less space for cars whilst 26 per cent of car users
said they would travel by bus if journey times could be cut by
half through bus priority measures.
3. The need for more funding for supported
If councils can provide better operating conditions
for buses then it would seem reasonable to expect operators to
run more services which are only borderline commercial. However,
the fact remains that more support is required for socially necessary
services. It is no wonder that local authorities find it more
and more difficult to fund essential but unremunerative services
when at the current level Government support would need to increase
by 30-40 per cent to reach the average of our European neighbours!
4. More regulation not the answer
We do not see how these problems of funding
and bus priority will be addressed simply by subjecting the bus
industry to the upheaval of more regulation and handing over control
to local authorities. Indeed, we believe that local and national
government are often failing to deliver their side of the partnership
with bus operators.
A more sustained effort is needed on both sides
to make partnership work
For example we would like to see local authorities
follow the example of Hampshire County Council, which has been
trialling a less radical and more constructive solution for the
provision of services, which are difficult to operate commercially.
The Council is working with Stagecoach to develop a co-ordinated,
efficient network to meet current needs for schools and social
services transport as well as the many services, which are only
just commercial. The Council believes that this scheme will be
less expensive and easier to implement than a quality contract.
Dr C Cahm
5 June 2002