ITC says ‘new markets are emerging’ in the bus sector despite overall decline

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A new report by transport think tank Independent Transport Commission (ITC) has revealed ‘major changes’ in travel behaviour across the bus market in England over the past decade.

Against a backdrop of falling overall bus usage in spite of significant population growth, the report shows that the traditional core market for the bus has been shrinking. Today’s bus travel is shaped around a smaller number of higher-intensity users, with each passenger outside London making a 5% more journeys than in 2009.

The report, ‘The shape of changing bus demand in England,’ authored by transport experts Dr Scott Le Vine and Emeritus Professor Peter White, uses National Travel Survey (NTS) data to explore what has been happening to bus travel demand in England since 2009, and investigates how the bus market has been changing in recent years. The main findings are:

    • Outside London, the number of annual bus journeys in England fell by 15%;
    • The proportion of the population who are ‘bus users’ has declined from 21% to 18%, the opposite of rail where a greater percentage of the population is travelling by rail;
    • The remaining ‘bus users’ are using the bus more intensely, making 5% more journeys;
    • Overall, local bus travel by women has fallen by 15% and men by 6%;
    • The highest rates of bus journeys are by people between ages 17 and 20, particularly females;
    • Men between 17 and 39 are making 14% more trips than in 2009, with 5% more miles per trip;
    • Traditional bus ‘core’ markets – the unemployed, students, non-car owners, low personal income (less than £5,000) – have decreased by 15%, 10%, 10% and 13% respectively; and
    • Nationally, there is no strong evidence of lost market share to private hire services (Uber) and taxis.

Katy Taylor, Group Commercial and Customer Director, The Go-Ahead Group, commented: “This report underscores the stark need for a National Bus Strategy to realise the full potential of buses to support our economy, society and environment.

“We must put bus at the heart of planning for schools, hospitals, housing, town centres and social services.
“Whilst the national picture is challenging, Go-Ahead is achieving growth in some cities through partnership working with local authorities to tackle congestion and prioritise bus travel.”