Transport Committee launches health of bus market inquiry

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The Transport Select Committee (TSC) has launched a ‘wide-ranging’ inquiry into the bus market in England outside London.

The inquiry, which has been dubbed ‘Health of the bus market,’ will consider the reliability of bus services, how they are run in metro-mayor, other metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas, how bus services are financed and examples of innovation and best practice.

The committee cited annual bus statistics produced by the Department for Transport, which state that although bus use per person has increased significantly in London over the last 25 years (+52%), it has fallen by 40% in other English metropolitan areas.

The committee said it is particularly interested to receive evidence on:
• The effectiveness and ambition of the Department for Transport’s policies on buses;
• Factors affecting bus use, including the reliability of the bus service, congestion and the ways bus companies are dealing with congestion, and the effectiveness of bus priority measures;
• The provision of services to isolated communities in rural and urban areas, and the reliance of particular communities and groups of people on bus services;
• The viability and long-term sustainability of bus services, including the effectiveness of funding, fare structures and public grants; and
• Regulations affecting the provision of bus services and the adequacy of guidance to operators and local authorities.

Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said: “There are a number of reasons for the sharp decline in bus use in England outside London over the past 25 years. Congestion, car ownership, an increase in online shopping and reductions in local authority subsidies all play a part.

“Our inquiry seeks to gather evidence about the health and future of the bus market. We will look at operational factors including the impact of congestion and reliability. We’ll be asking about the most effective models for bus companies. The financing of buses, investment in services and value for money and progress since the Bus Services Act 2017 in metro and non-metro areas will all come under consideration.

“A successful bus market can cut congestion, reduce social isolation, help the environment and offer a variety of economic benefits. I would encourage anyone with insight into this sector to submit evidence.”

Steve Chambers, Public Transport Campaigner for Campaign for Better Transport, commented: “One of the main problems is the lack of a national strategy or investment plan to support bus services. Without these, the prognosis is grim and we will see more and more people cut off from public transport with grave economic and social consequences.

“Thankfully the Bus Services Act 2017 gives councils more powers to help improve buses in their area. There are already some councils that have started to use these new powers, but we think the Government should be doing more to promote and support them.

“We will be submitting evidence to this inquiry and we would urge anyone who has an interest in keeping local buses running to send in their views too.”

CPT CEO, Simon Posner, said: “CPT welcomes the announcement that the Transport Select Committee is launching a ‘wide ranging inquiry’ into the bus market in England outside London.

“The inquiry provides the ideal platform for the industry to discuss and raise awareness of the issues currently impacting on operations and bus use. This also presents an opportunity for bus companies to engage with politicians in order to establish the best possible operating environment for them and their passengers.

“CPT will be submitting written evidence to the TSC in due course and looks forward to playing an active role in the inquiry. We urge members to also respond ahead of the 24 September deadline.”

Submissions can be made at http://bit.ly/busmarkethealth