Bus industry urges politicians to back positive, practical changes for passengers
Issued on behalf of operators by the Confederation of Passenger Transport Scotland.
Bus operators in Scotland are calling for practical change to help buses flourish and deliver better services for the country’s bus passengers. The call comes following the publication of an independent report which has revealed the real reasons behind recent passenger decline.
Independent research by KPMG, which has been published today, examined Scottish patronage trends and concludes that, despite bus industry efforts to boost passenger numbers and develop services, operators are being hampered by a range of factors including rising car use, congestion, changing shopping habits and reduced public sector investment.
In fact, the study – Trends in Scottish Bus Patronage – found that 75% of the decline in bus passenger numbers could be attributed to factors outwith the operators’ control. The report noted that bus operators are working hard to improve services and attract more passengers. They have delivered a range of recent initiatives including contactless payments, multioperator smart ticketing and significant investment in new vehicles.
The industry has also managed to keep price rises to a minimum, with fares rising at half the rate of operating costs. Bus fares in Scotland also remain the lowest in the UK.
The report has highlighted the need for practical, not structural change across Scotland’s bus networks, to help the country take advantage of the environmental, economic and social benefits delivered by Scotland’s most popular form of public transport.
The report was commissioned on behalf of bus operators by industry body the Confederation of Passenger Transport Scotland. CPT Scotland said KPMG was given unprecedented access to information from Scotland’s leading bus operators and was asked to act independently throughout the research.
The report highlighted that:
- Every £1 invested in local bus services generates up to £8 in wider social, economic and environmental benefits.
- Car ownership and use continues to rise and has reduced bus journeys by almost 15million in the past 4 years.
- An increase in online shopping means fewer people are travelling to high streets and shopping centres. This trend has cut bus journeys by 7million over the same period.
- Congestion has increased average bus journey times by 10% over the last decade, leading to higher fares and undermining the attractiveness of the bus. Longer journey times have turned almost 6 million people off bus journeys in the past four years
- There has been significantly higher investment in other transport modes which are used by less people. For example, Scottish Government support for rail per passenger trip is roughly ten times that for each bus passenger.
- Stronger partnerships between operators and transport authorities and investment in bus priority measures will help bus operators deliver a convenient, dependable and affordable network of services.
To coincide with the publication of the KPMG report, Scottish bus operators launched their Get on Board with Bus campaign.
The campaign will raise awareness of the issues facing the bus industry and its passengers, tackling perceptions about buses, highlighting the work and investment of operators and outlining ways in which passengers and politicians can ‘get on board with bus’.
George Mair, Director, CPT Scotland said: “Buses are vital for Scotland. 76% of all public transport journeys in Scotland are made by bus. They are a modern, accessible, environmentally friendly means of connecting people and joining up communities.
“It’s essential that the country’s decision-makers act on the findings of this report to protect and deliver for Scotland’s bus passengers. The value of a comprehensive bus network is clear, and the dangers of not taking the practical action needed are stark.
“Our Get On Board With Bus campaign will shine a light on the barriers facing the industry and encourage support for bus. Given the contribution buses make to the economy, the environment and social inclusion, the action we are calling for is in the best interests of the whole country, not just bus passengers.”
Gavin Booth, Director of Bus Users Scotland, said: “Although we know that bus passenger numbers are falling, roundly 400million journeys are still made each year on Scotland’s buses. Bus Users Scotland welcomes the bus industry’s Get On Board With Bus initiative to highlight the importance of good regular bus services to the people who rely on buses every day.
“We know from our Bus Compliance team which monitors bus services throughout Scotland that bus companies are providing good quality services, although traffic congestion can seriously affect reliability.”
The KPMG report can be downloaded at https://getonboardwithbus.scot/.