Thomas Jones, Anthony Walker, Jack Firmstone and Natasha Murphy, Young users of public transport in the North West – Written evidence (TTS0009)


It’s cheaper for me to drive ten minutes to work than get the tram which is on my doorstep. I can’t justify spending more money just getting to work.

Public transport where I live is not integrated, doesn't run regularly enough and is too expensive. It does not also connect well across local towns and villages.

Key findings: More than fifty percent dissatisfaction. Two thirds say “unaffordable”.

This report responds to the House of Lords Built Environment Committee Call for Evidence in its Inquiry into Public Transport and is written by a team of young people living in or around Ormskirk in Lancashire and studying at Edge Hill University. It is produced at a time when public transport is very much in the news in the North, with the recent Judicial Review on the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s plans for bus franchising[1] and the decision by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to take a similar step.[2]

Young people are likely to be more reliant on public transport than some other age groups.  Connectivity is particularly important for those who need to travel between towns, for example into and out of Ormskirk for work or study purposes.  This means the group has an “every-day” experience of using public transport services which is helpful in understanding needs and problems.

To explore the issue, the group carried out a survey asking for views on a range of public transport issues.  The group also briefly examined the differences between using public transport in London and elsewhere. The group, and their colleagues, would be willing to provide further comment.

Where you live matters

Two bus journeys were compared.  These were Kings Cross St Pancras to Greenwich and Preston to Ormskirk.  The journey times for these routes are similar (just under an hour and a quarter/one hour and twenty minutes).  However when prices were compared for an 8 am start on Monday 7 March there was a stark difference in price.  The London journey would cost £1.55.  The Lancashire journey would cost £5.80 (£6.50 return).  Even with a Central Lancs DayRider ticket the price remains high at £5.00. (sources: Transport for London, personal knowledge, Stagecoach). 

The public transport survey

Survey respondents were, in the main, students on either full-time or part-time courses at Edge Hill University. Some respondents were in employment.  Some travelled both for University and for paid work.  A key finding was that the majority had a negative perception of public transport, with 52 percent being dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

Ten questions were asked with respondents being given some multi choice options but also being prompted for general comments and suggestions.  Comments were sought on problems, improvements and on how public transport could be made more attractive to non- users.  Nearly 90 per cent of those responding were current users of public transport, with trains being the most used mode (78 per cent) and buses the next (65 per cent).  Many of the question responses reinforced replies to other questions. 

The survey asked for suggestions for improvements to public transport.  Respondents had a number of suggestions.

Reduced Ticket Prices – 84.1% overall.  90% public transport users

The future possibility of increased technology on public transport has some interest but is currently not the focus of this response group. The main thing respondents wanted was reduced ticket prices. Notably, 90 per cent of all respondents who use public transport in the Northwest wanted a reduction in the price of their ticket or season pass.

These are some comments respondents made regarding the pricing of public transport:

"It’s cheaper for me to drive ten minutes to work than get the tram which is on my doorstep. I can’t justify spending more money just getting to work".

"Ticket prices need to be reduced for trains and services as the prices are too high".

"Better prices need to be put into place to make it more desirable for people to use public transport. Although there are options available for students and the elderly, prices still seem to be creeping up every year".

"Most of all I think the prices should be reduced. Train prices especially are way too expensive for students to be able to afford. Most of the time, trains are the most widely used method of transport for students so I think lower prices should be considered. For me to go home it costs £80 and a 6-hour train".

More Destination Options – 29%

Another option that was available to respondents was More destination options”.  One respondent commented  "there should be direct trainlines from Ormskirk to Southport, Ormskirk should be more connected through public buses". More destination options would encourage using public transport as it would reduce travel times. (It is worth remarking that an ongoing campaign for a rail service between Ormskirk and Southport – the Burscough Curves campaign - has had a number of knockbacks)[3][4]

More Services – 46.4%

Another respondent said  "the number of services from Ormskirk to Preston ( bus 2A). As a student who finishes late sometimes due to extracurricular activities or social events. I have to miss out on a lot due to the last bus being at 18:50 on a weekday. If I miss the bus, I have to rely on someone else to give me a lift back home. This is inaccessible to people who require that bus particularly myself who relies on that only bus to get home".

The most widely affected demographics by the significant lack of services were students who commute and may have to change at multiple stops to reach their destination, followed by those who are employed and must rely on public transport to get to work.

Another respondent suggested increasing some Sunday services, especially for people who work during Sunday trading hours. Some of the employed respondents mentioned that increased reliability on Sundays would be important, as some services finish earlier, making it harder to get back home.

Improved Communication – 46.4%

Some of the respondents have made comments about the poor communication between public transport services and whether they may be late or not. Although some apps do give updates on whether they will be late or not. There is an issue with people who do not have access to that software. Some respondents also mentioned that some authorities do not alert bus companies about roadworks that may happen at times when it would affect them.

"[we need] better communication when there are any changes or delays"

Improved Cleanliness – 43.5%

“An improvement would be if buses were cleaned more frequently/effectively as they are often dirty which is particularly concerning during a pandemic where people have become increasingly concerned with sanitation. This would make public transport a more attractive option for people and may encourage more people to use it rather than private transport options”.

Increased Range of Features (Better Wi-Fi, Charging Ports, etc.) 36.2%

One respondent highlighted the feature of increased shelters at bus stops to support people when waiting in the rain. Another respondent mentioned that with the increase in use of mobile technology, having increased electrical outlets on buses and trains would help commuters, whether workers or students, who need to finish reports or browse during their commute.

More Environmentally friendly transport options (Electric Hybrid) 34.8%

“If trains are more environmentally friendly than petrol cars, we should be encouraged to use them through lower prices”

“[It] would be nice to see more environmentally friendly forms of transportation too in the future”

The survey asked those who did not use public transport, or did not use it regularly, about what could be done to encourage its use.

The consensus of the responses was better accessibility and cheaper costs.

“Public transport where I live is not integrated, doesn't run regularly enough and is too expensive. It does not also connect well across local towns and villages.”

“Make it cheap, for example a monthly ticket from Leeds to Manchester costs significantly more than the cost of owning and running a car”

The survey asked about waiting times.

More than half of the respondents (56.5 per cent) reported feeling dissatisfied with the current waiting times for public transport. Some reported dissatisfaction because of lack of reliability of services when waiting. This indication suggests that many believe they did not get their money’s worth during their travels. This agrees with the earlier points about clear communication about delays or changes to services.

The survey asked about affordability.

Although 27.5 per cent of the respondents consider public transport to be affordable, more than two thirds of respondents did not believe that public transport is affordable.

The survey did not seek views about public ownership but one respondent answered that it would be better to nationalise the railways as it ensures that the money that is being collected is being invested back into the infrastructure rather than going into the “pockets of private companies and their shareholders”. This would allow railway companies to pay their staff better and prevent the number of strikes taking place, as well as making sure that commuters do not have to source alternative means of getting to work on time.

Another respondent commented on how there should be better links between rural areas and towns and cities, following how it would be better to have cheaper prices for long-distance journeys, for example Ormskirk to London. This especially creates more demand for people who may be required to travel from rural regions.

Another respondent noted how if there was to be a reduction in ticket fares then this would encourage the use of eco-friendly modes of public transport. Therefore, as previously mentioned this increases the level of demand particularly for members of the public who may be reliant on low incomes, student maintenance loans, or for those who are employed and must commute from significantly long distances.

The final question that was asked was what aspects of public transport could be improved? Many answers reinforce those provided for earlier sections.

Some respondents made comments about offering more frequent services in a greater number of locations. Some respondents said that this would encourage more people to use public transportation instead of a car, as people are becoming more environmentally conscious. Another theme regarding environmental issues is the increase of electric- hybrid public transportation vehicles.  These would improve the quality of service and some respondents said the use of these vehicles would increase the likelihood of them using public transport.

Some respondents mentioned the importance of generally having a more environmentally friendly option for customers to use. Considering that public transportation is a good form of eco-friendly transportation, it could be improved further by a move to more eco-friendly technologies.

Some respondents also mention the lack of availability of some destinations. One respondent mentioned the lack of a train line from Ormskirk to Southport (as mentioned above) This respondent would have to roughly take over an hour by train there and would have to transfer at Sandhills (Merseyrail Northern Line) or Burscough Junction and then walk to another station (Northern). Given the distance between Ormskirk and Southport the length and complexity of public transport journeys by train is particularly frustrating.

Some respondents talked about infrastructure within the public transport industry. Some comments reflect the need for more seating and covering for bus shelters in the north to help people when the weather is bad. Some respondents commented, suggesting that more facilities regarding more charging ports need to be implemented, better Wi-Fi and accessible toilets on train with the increased cleanliness that is required for such services.

Summing up

People who use public transport are usually unsatisfied with their experiences. Some issues include price, waiting times, lack of infrastructure and poor methods of communication. These play critical roles in shaping the overall satisfaction of commuters and travellers while they utilise the current forms of public transport. This report shows that people are willing to use public transport as a sustainable way of travel for the long term benefits it can provide. There are certain improvements that can be made, that would encourage people to use public transport more or to start using it.


The survey was carried out on- line in February 2022.  69 people responded.

March 2022