‘Back public transport,’ businesses warn PM

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A coordinated letter has been sent to the Prime Minister to highlight that public transport can help high streets and avoid gridlock

A coalition of organisations representing shops, offices, restaurants, venues, public transport providers and trade unions has written to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, urging him to encourage people back on to buses and trains as restrictions are lifted. A failure to get people back onto public transport risks towns and cities where people are more reliant on buses, trams and trains being left behind, they say.

The letter, which has been coordinated by sustainable transport charity Campaign for Better Transport, has been endorsed by leading business, leisure and hospitality organisations including the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the British Retail Consortium (BRC), UK Hospitality and the CBI, as well as the umbrella organisations representing the rail and bus industries (the Rail Delivery Group and the Confederation of Passenger Transport). Other organisations including the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) have also added their names, as well as the Urban Transport Group, which represents the local transport authorities for the largest urban areas. Taken together, these organisations represent hundreds of thousands of businesses employing millions of people and which, pre-pandemic, helped people to make over 15 million daily journeys.

The letter calls on the Government to aid a full revival of the retail, leisure and hospitality businesses that form the beating heart of town and city centres across the country by helping to restore people’s confidence in using public transport.

Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “As England prepares to take the next step out of lockdown, it is vital that the Government sends a loud and clear message that travelling by public transport is both safe and desirable. Without this we risk slowing down the high street recovery as many people will simply stay away, or worse seeing towns and cities more reliant on public transport being left behind while car-heavy areas experience increased pollution and congestion.”

In order to prevent a lasting legacy of shuttered businesses, economic inequality, increased congestion and more pollution, the letter urges the Prime Minister to:

  • Send a visible message that buses and trains are safe to use when appropriate measures – like wearing a face covering – are followed, with ministers and others being seen to use public transport;
  • Take a balanced and pragmatic approach towards public transport in the ongoing review into social distancing, recognising the significant importance of buses, trains and trams to the economic recovery and air quality; and
  • Make it simple and easy for people to choose and pay for their fare and know they are getting the best deal by reforming fares and ticket retailing across public transport to help both passengers and businesses in the recovery.

The full letter can be read at bettertransport.org.uk/sites/default/files/research-files/letter-to-prime-minister-may-21.pdf