Written evidence submitted by Mrs Roma Patten (BUS0019)

I am responding to the second and fourth questions as follows:-

2.              The challenges facing the sector as it recovers from the pandemic and the effectiveness of steps taken by both Government and stakeholders in response

This Government policy has become mired firstly in the Covid19 pandemic and latterly rising fuel prices which have given rise to many challenges.  I see them as:-

  1. The severity of the decline in passenger journeys


  1. Encouragement to work from home


  1. Changes to life style with hybrid working


  1. Residual fear of travelling by public transport


  1. Driver shortage as the pandemic restrictions were lifted


  1. Long term increased fuel costs

Passenger journeys are only slowly increasing.  There are varied reasons for this which include changes to life styles caused by the pandemic, with more people deciding hybrid working is preferable to a whole week in the office; keeping up with the changes to timetables, as operators respond to the returning number of passengers alongside driver shortages and a residual fear by a minority of using public transport.

The pandemic caused a backlog of HGV and PSV training and the Government introduced measures to improve the situation.  Bus driving remains an industry where pay is at a disadvantage compared with the haulage industry.

Should the rapid rise in the fuel costs become long term this could become a major concern to the bus industry.  The Government needs to take this into account when arranging continued support for the industry.

Bus companies need to be more proactive in not only encouraging “lost” passengers to return but in attracting new ones.

4.              Bus funding over the short and long term                            The National Bus strategy (NBS) policy gave Local Authority’s (LAs) the opportunity for a change of direction for their local bus services by introducing either a franchised system or an enhanced partnership.  The time scale to prepare the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) was tight. It gave LAs the opportunity for “blue sky” thinking to improve and enhance their local services .  No detailed funding guidance was given and therefore the opportunity for imaginative and innovative thinking.  Time and effort by council members and officers was expended to produce the BSIPs by the 31st October 2021.  It would have been a huge disappointment when the partial pausing of the scheme was announced which halted the implementation date of the 1st April 2022.

Outside of Government funding for the new scheme was queried and this has proved justified as has been revealed.

This funding delay and subsequent stop gap financing measure until October 2022 does not auger well for the success of what could have been from the bold approach when the NBS was launched three years ago.  Priorities within the new system during implementation would have been part of the plan but the current position increases the burden of those keeping the services running amidst inconsistent funding.  Decisions need to be made timeously if there is to be an effective implementation of the NBS policy.  Alongside the funding for the implantation of the franchises and enhanced partnerships, long term funding needs to be agreed without a lengthy delay.

LAs need to be fully in control of deciding their own financial priorities within their BSIP.  This will allow funding to be used to best effect accounting for local needs.  A degree of ring-fencing financial support would also prevent funding being syphoned to other LA budgets.

The present war in Ukraine and possible long-term increases to fuel costs decrease the likelihood of these new arrangements being successfully implemented.

The Government supported the bus industry throughout the pandemic.  However, for it to recover and thus support the national economy, long term guaranteed funding is essential.


March 2022