Greener Journeys calls for growth agenda for bus

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The study found catching the bus achieves half the government recommended daily exercise
The study found catching the bus achieves half the government recommended daily exercise

New report and health study launched at House of Commons by bus coalition

A rallying call for government support to unite behind a growth agenda for the bus sector was made by Greener Journeys in the shape of a new report. The report looking into transport funding was presented to parliament at the House of Commons, at an event hosted by Stephen Hammond MP with Norman Baker MP as key speaker, as CBW went to press (September 12).

The report argues the transport community has been pre-occupied with railways over the last few years and has left, by comparison, the mounting problems facing bus passengers firmly under the radar.

Greener Journeys – a coalition of the UK’s major bus companies – said the House of Commons Transport Select Committee has previously condemned the “parlous state of the nation’s bus services” and highlighted their concern that at least seven out of 10 local authorities have made – or are planning to make – cuts in local bus services, with talk of ‘bus meltdown’ in metropolitan areas.

Other main findings include:

  • Buses are vital to the conditions necessary for economic growth;
  • Buses provide an immediate low cost means of reducing carbon emissions from transport;
  • Buses are crucial for tackling social exclusion; and
  • Buses bring many wider positive health and environmental benefits to individuals and society.

The report was presented on the day that Greener Journeys released a study investigating the health benefits of walking as part of the bus journey. Participants were sourced from all areas of the UK and equipped with a pedometer. They had to monitor and record the steps taken during a journey, which involved using a car, and the same journey using a bus.

The study found catching the bus achieves half the government recommended daily exercise. Data from 424 journeys showed that participants averaged a daily walking distance of nearly 1.3km when catching the bus, 2.5 times more than when taking the car.

The study comes at a time when the government advises short bursts of activity can add up to form the recommended 30 minutes, five times a week.

Author of the study, Dr David Lewis said: “Taking the figures from our study, someone who travels by bus daily will walk almost 460km per year – that’s equivalent to walking 11 marathons. This would be of substantial benefit to the two thirds of British adults who, according to the 2010 Health Survey, do not achieve the recommended levels of exercise.

“This Greener Journeys study clearly demonstrates that using the bus instead of the car could enhance both personal and national wellbeing.”

Claire Haigh of Greener Journeys said the chance to exercise and burn calories may be a tipping point for commuters who are already concerned about the high levels of CO2 pollution produced by cars – often occupied by the driver only.

“It’s not just health and the environment that will benefit. Inactivity is conservatively estimated to cost the economy £10 billion per year and active travel – that includes walking – has the potential to reduce these costs substantially,” she said.

Greener Journeys is working with government and local authorities to accelerate the adoption of a range of pro bus and coach policies that will make it easier for people to make sustainable transport choices. It is calling on central government to protect BSOG from further cuts; local government to provide adequate road space for bus use and apply sustainable principles to land use planning policy; and HM Treasury to give incentives for consumers to travel by bus e.g. allow bus season tickets and travel cards to be paid for out of people’s pre tax income and to encourage salary sacrifice schemes.

The Greener Journeys coalition includes major operators Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach, and has an ambition to shift a billion car journeys to the bus by 2014.

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