Written evidence by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) UK (LRS0002)




  1. The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) represents the operators of bus and coach services across the UK.  We have more than one thousand enterprises in membership, including major PLCs, municipally-owned companies and family businesses with fewer than ten vehicles and accounting for in excess of 95% of the bus fleet and 55% of coach fleet in the UK.


  1. This evidence seeks to highlight the important role that the sector can play in the delivery of economic growth in the UK, and the importance of partnership working between local authorities and bus operators.




  1. Buses in England outside London are operated by private companies on a commercial basis. Bus companies determine what routes they want to run, how they run them and what fares to charge, provided they meet some basic notice and licencing obligations. Bus operators and drivers require a licence to operate and vehicles must comply with certain safety requirements. The Traffic Commissioners have overall responsibility for operator licensing compliance and must be notified of changes to routes, including decisions to withdraw routes.


  1. A local authority can step in where a service it deems to be socially necessary is not being provided by the market. Councils can contract bus operators to provide such services.


The role of bus in economic growth


  1. Buses have an important role to play in supporting economic growth and reducing social deprivation. They connect people to work, school, medical facilities and leisure activities. They can also play a huge role in reducing air pollution and congestion – a fully loaded double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road,[1] whilst a brand new diesel car with a single occupant can emit more nitrogen oxides than a new bus carrying 50 or more passengers.[2] Pre-pandemic, more people commuted to work by bus than any other transport mode and these bus users generated £64bn of economic output each year.[3] Buses were also the primary mode of access to city centres, supporting 1.4bn shopping trips and facilitating nearly a third of city centre expenditure.[4]


  1. Partnership working between local authorities and bus operators is vital to ensuring that bus travel can play its part in supporting sustainable economic growth – connecting homes to jobs, shops and leisure facilities and tackling congestion which, pre-pandemic, cost urban areas in England at least £11bn a year.[5]


  1. Consideration of bus service provision should also be a key part of the planning process for new developments such as homes and workplaces.


Partnership working


  1. There are numerous examples of operators and local authorities working in partnership to deliver improved services to passengers, and we have seen the results of such partnerships in places like Merseyside, whose Bus Alliance has seen a 15% increase in fare-paying passengers since 2013-14 and the number of bus journeys taken by young people rise by 168%. Bristol’s bus partnership has seen passenger numbers grow by 52% since 2013, and over the past seven years, Sheffield’s bus partnership has delivered more than a million extra adult journeys by bus.


  1. The pandemic has also demonstrated how well bus operators and local authorities can work together to safeguard services and put passengers first. A number of examples from CPT members can be found at Annex 1.



The case for continuing the commercial model of bus service provision


  1. There have been calls by some - Combined Authorities in particular - for greater control of bus services as part of the Government’s devolution agenda. We do not think this is the most appropriate mechanism to fund bus services.


  1. Given the current unprecedented conditions that bus operators currently face, bus services are currently receiving subsidy from Government in the form of the Coronavirus Bus Services Support Grant. Nonetheless we do not see this as a reason to devolve greater control of bus services and funding to local authorities. Private companies have consistently delivered services during the pandemic. Continuing with the current model of operating bus services will:


  1. In the longer term, bus operators, government and bus passengers all want the same things - a joined up, integrated network, fast and reliable journeys, simple fares and ticketing and clean, well-equipped buses. Experience across the country shows that these outcomes are most effectively delivered where operators and local authorities work in partnership without council tax payers having to take on the risk and cost of council control. A franchised model of bus services, as proposed by some Combined Authorities, would have the following disadvantages:







  1. There are also concerns over the capacity of local authorities to take on this additional responsibility and any logjams created by extra bureaucracy would undermine the practical delivery of services. There would also be a serious risk that some of the money allocated for bus services by central Government would not, in fact, be spent on bus, but would be siphoned off for light rail or to plug gaps in parking income, for example. 




August 2020

Annex 1


Below are a number of examples from CPT members of effective co-operation between bus operators, local authorities and the NHS during the pandemic period to put passengers first and safeguard services.


Brighton and Hove Buses


Stagecoach East Midlands



Stagecoach Connect


Tees Flex



West Midlands Bus Alliance


[1] Greener Journeys (July 2017) greenerjourneys.com/news/leave-cars-home-catch-bus-week

[2] Passenger Transport (12 January 2017) passengertransport.co.uk/2017/01/a-diesel-bus-emits-less-nitro-than-a-diesel-car/

[3] Mackie, P. Laird, J and Johnson, D. (2012) Buses and the Economy, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds

[4] Greenerjourneys.com/news/bus-networks-face-potential-funding-crisis-as-osborne-sharpens-the-axe/

[5] Greener Journeys (July 2018) Tackling Pollution and Congestion: Why congestion must be reduced if air quality is to improve