Research commissioned by Greener Journeys has demonstrated how investing in bus services could boost the economy as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the organisation, prior to COVID-19 the bus was the main mode of access to city centres, and bus commuters were generating £64 billion in goods and services every year.
The new research, undertaken by KPMG, suggests that £2 billion of investment would generate 425 million additional bus journeys per year in England outside of London. It found that each £1 invested would generate £4.48 in wider social, economic and environmental benefits, and that all local authority areas in England outside of London could expect to see at least a 20% increase in patronage.
From 1 August employers will be able to decide when their employees can go back to work in the office, and the Government is relaxing its guidance on avoiding public transport. However, Greener Journeys is calling on the Government to be more positive in its messaging and encourage the responsible use of public transport.
Bus patronage today is at just a third of pre-crisis levels, it says, as more people are choosing to drive instead of taking public transport.
Claire Haigh, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, said: “The PM may have dropped the avoid public transport message, but he is still encouraging people to use alternative means of transport wherever possible. This won’t be enough to restart the economy. The fundamental role of mass transit in facilitating economic activity is as essential today as it ever was.
“We need a green recovery and that will require a massive shift from private transport to public, shared and active travel. The forthcoming national bus strategy must maximise the potential of the bus to tackle pollution, reduce social deprivation and reignite the economy.”
Fellow campaign group Bus Users has welcomed the findings of the research. Dawn Badminton-Capps, Bus Users Director for England, said: “The negative messaging around public transport throughout the COVID-19 crisis has encouraged people into private vehicles. This could have a devastating and lasting impact on public transport that will leave communities isolated, and see congestion and pollution in our towns and cities rise even further.
“Buses are key to the UK’s recovery and along with major new investment, we need to make sure people feel safe and confident to get back on board.”