Written evidence submitted by Mr Brendan Aston (BUS0022)
At the moment Bus transport is based mainly on a low frequency, particularly in suburban and rural areas, high cost (both to the passenger and subsidizing agencies) individual bus routes, with a spoke like operation from city /town centres based on departure time past the hour with tickets for mainly individual services and not linked to other public and other transport services. Operations are mainly day time serving mainly city centres.
Concern is mainly about the actual ride rather than the whole journey experience including lack of adequate shelter, real time information about how services are running if at all, and getting to and from the nearest bus stop. The design of modern estates making it difficult for busses to operate in them and the nearest bus routes tend to be some distance from people’s houses.
As a result the bus is usually the transport is usually the transport of last resort rather than a top priority. Even those people who do not have cars find bus travel difficult when accessing work or recreation. Many people on low incomes find it difficult to access good jobs. People in many deprived areas have less chance of accessing recreational areas hence leading to poor health and wellbeing in these groups. The government “Levelling Up Agenda” often focus on needy towns but not on the areas in both rich and poor cities where people live. While money is being spent the poorer members of society cannot access them because of poor bus and other public transport.
Even for the better of, poor public transport means that they will invariable use their cars, resulting in congestion, pollution and climate change.
In the city of Nantes in western France bus (and tram) services go across the city centres to various hubs from which suburban and rural services are connected. Times of buses are displayed and Tickets can be used across the network allowing people to hop from one service to another lasting for various time intervals. Fares are relatively cheap. Groups of up to 4 adults can travel together as well as having family tickets. In England because of a flat fair policy operated by many companies even a short journey for a family can cost £20+. French Government Department areas have tickets which can be used on rail and across various bus services cost varying depending on zones travelled in. Bus times are linked into the train times.
Because of the network and across city centre routes, bus capacity and frequency can be tailored better to meet demands both in the city centre areas and in suburbs and adjoining rural areas.
Here apart from peak time most buses have overall a low percentage of their capacity utilized over the journey length. Because of the fanning out from city centres a lot of busses will be converging on the same roads towards the city centre hence an over capacity while in suburban areas at off-peak there are less passengers but often there is a use of large double decker busses be used.
Here we have a huge number often 6 or 7 double décor busses going to the city centre at one go as much as every 10 minutes but no busses that can take people to the hospital, central library, or across town, hence a lot of the time buses are nearly empty while people often have to use there cars even while traveling in town.
In Torshaven in the Faroe Islands the city buses are free at the point of use to travel on. Hence there is less congestion in the city. While the cost of electric cars are too expensive for most families, electric or hydrogen busses could not only reduce pollution and congestion in cities but also reduce dependency on Russian oil.
What is needed in England is a Network of low cost, both to passengers and funding agencies, where individuals and groups can travel across the network. Schedules should be such that like rail network, where people can easily travel across cities where arrival times are given more consideration.
In Brighton and Hove the vast majority of bus stops give real time display of bus arrivals. Also on the buses passengers are given information what the next bus stop is both visually and orally. It is often very difficult to know where the bus is especially at night or in a strange place.
While many bus companies have tried to improve the comfort and amenities on the bus, waiting for the bus in most cases is often a cold and wet experience and in some cases a nervous or dangerous experience. This is often a reason why people would not take a bus even if it would otherwise be attractive. Better waiting facilities and real time information should be available.
Often people do not get busses is because the stop is too far away or in rural areas in particular it would be difficult to justify a bus service at most times for small isolated communities. Consideration should be given to the use of assessable driverless electric pods which could transport people to and from their nearest bus routes.
Because of the layout of places particularly rural villages it is difficult for buses to serve places either because the village is at a dead end or busses would have to travel over long distances between places because there is no places where buses could effectively turn round. Local council / metro mayor overseeing buses should be given powers and resources to obtain and maintain bus turning places where appropriate. This would enhance the viability of providing services which at present would not be possible.
While there are regulations regarding individual properties energy use, this is not so for estates and developments. Many people have no alternative but to use their cars for work, leisure and shopping.
Energy ratings for new build housing estates and developments should be made and energy efficiency targets should be set so to encourage use of public transport, walking and cycling.
At the moment there is The Department of Transport which at the moment really is encouraging more roads etc. The Department should be renamed the Department of Location and Movement.
In many European Cities people live, work shop and have their leisure in a local area including city centres. Here the town planning encourages the concept of zoning which means that people have to move for these various activities resulting in congestion and pollution but also it means that the poorer members of society miss out on these and have poorer life chances as a result.
One of the problems with the current bus organization is that of travel time particularly from the outer suburbs or between towns especially at peak times when people need to get to work or education for a definite time. There needs perhaps a system where there is pick up at outer suburbs linking to service which will do all stops to the city centre while the suburban bus goes straight in to the town centre.
While some towns have park and ride places consideration should be given to cycle and ride systems. While cycling might be considered safe in low traffic out of town and suburban centres many people would not feel safe cycling into congested city centre areas.
The way cities and towns are designed also make life more difficult for people with disabilities. Also often sink estates where people cannot access work and recreational facilities often are areas of anti-social behaviour, crime and drug use. Often when considering cost or subsides for bus services no account is taken about the cost of police, social service, vandalism and health cost which ensue from the lack of affordable frequent public transport.
The government will be losing revenue with the increase in electrical vehicles which at present are often bough by the more wealth citizens. Variable road charging / congestion charges could be used to give revenue for funds for public transport.
A network of accessible interlinked busses with overall high frequency where capacity is tailored to potential passenger numbers should be developed looking at arrival times along with proper waiting facilities with good real time information both before getting on board and on the journey. The overall cost to passengers and for the subsidizing authority would be much less than running the current system. Also this would mean that vastly more areas could get a good cheap bus service without vast extra expense.
There would be a Chicken and egg problem as to how to get good service and good passenger numbers at the same time. The way that this might be achieved is to monitor car use along routes into towns and cities. By introducing variable high road charges and high variable parking charges while at the same time introducing high frequency low cost bus services this could be achieved. One could then expand the network and times of operations so that better services could be developed without huge costs or high fares.