Written evidence submitted by Living Streets (BUS0048)



1. We are Living Streets, the UK charity for everyday walking. We want a nation where walking is the natural choice for local everyday journeys, free from congested roads and pollution, reducing the risk of preventable illnesses and social isolation and making walking the natural choice. We believe that a walking nation means progress for everyone. Our ambition is to get people of all generations to enjoy the benefits that this simple act brings and to ensure all our streets are fit for walking.

We have 43,502 active supporters and 65 local groups.



Government must do better

2. Living Streets supports the Government’s National Bus Strategy ‘Bus Back Better’[1] because it sets out an ambitious vision to dramatically improve bus services in England outside London. Its main aim is to make local bus transport a practical and attractive alternative to travelling by car for more peoplealso supporting the Government’s objective to increase the number of journey stages walked per person per year as part of longer journeys by bus[2]. However, while the aim is laudable, there is a risk it will fail to live up to expectations.

3. Bus deregulation in the mid-1980s was supposed to lead to an improvement in bus services, and to more people travelling by bus, but failed to deliver. Bus Back Better offers a shift towards greater local authority control. It requires joint working between local transport authorities (LTAs) and bus operators in the form of Enhanced Partnerships or working towards franchising (as in London and Greater Manchester). This is a positive step forward. Public ownership of bus companies could support greater growth in bus patronage. This is the norm in Europe, but there are only ten remaining bus networks in public ownership in the UK[3]. The advantage of publicly owned bus companies is that they can reinvest profits (and public subsidies which account for 40% of operator turnover) into their services.

4. Through the development of Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs), local authorities were promised a share of a £3 billion ‘transformational’ pot. The promise of BSIPs is the much-needed delivery of simpler and lower fares, more frequent services, greater bus priority and less polluting electric vehicles. Having set the challenge, it is good to see that all 79 LTAs across England committed to Enhanced Partnerships (with some combined authorities also pursuing franchising) and submitted BSIPs to the Department for Transport (DfT)[4]. Unfortunately, the total funding requests (more than £7 billion) far exceed the pot available. With the reforms, further funding could support greater growth.

Integrated transport planning is key

5. Journey convenience, comfort and reliability are key to encouraging a modal shift towards active and sustainable travel. Bus Service Improvement Plans must be implemented as part of an integrated transport plan – for example, delivering improved infrastructure for walking and cycling, reallocating road space away from private vehicle journeys and low emission zones. Unless LTAs tackle congestion (to enable punctual services) and air pollution, alongside policies that pro-actively encourage modal shift, then fundamental barriers to bus patronage will remain. Living Streets’ looks forward to the Department for Transport’s upcoming consultation on Local Transport Plans as a step forward in delivering integrated transport planning.


April 2022


[1] Department for Transport (2021). ‘Bus Back Better’, Bus back better - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

[2] The Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy target is 300 stages per person per year in 2025. This has already been met – the Department for Transport reported that in 2019 332 walking stages were made per person per year. See walking-and-cycling-statistics-2019 (publishing.service.gov.uk)

[3] See Buses are better in public hands (weownit.org.uk)

[4] See The National Bus Strategy one year on – what progress so far? | Campaign For Better Transport