Bus operators have expressed concern that councils do not have the financial resources or political commitment to deliver their part in the Government’s reforms.
Research published by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), sets out service operators’ concerns around the Government’s reform agenda, as it takes the Bus Services Bill forward.
Traffic congestion 'holds up buses'
The research, based on interviews with senior directors at operators of all sizes, found cross-industry anxiety ‘that the reform process has curtailed service innovations and investment in the short-term and could discourage entrepreneurial talent from entering the industry in the future’.
Operators said they were keen on increased partnership working but were ‘concerned that councils do not have the financial resources or political commitment to deliver their part’.
Keith Homer, managing director of MM Transport Planning, led the research for CILT.
He said it found three key themes:
- that traffic congestion is undermining the commercial viability of urban services
- that the buses reform process is affecting service development and fleet investment decisions
- and a ‘stark contrast between positive expectations for urban areas and pessimism about rural services’.
The research found that passenger volume and commercial viability is stronger and has better prospects in urban areas and along core corridors, but in rural areas and on peripheral services, ‘commercial performance is poorer and services will probably reduce in the short, medium and longer term’.
Traffic congestion was a ‘widespread and strongly expressed concern’ that was said to be having an adverse effect on the attractiveness of bus services.
It was seen by many participants as being the greatest cost pressure on the industry because reducing operating speeds means more resources are required to provide the same level of service.
The chair of the CILT Bus and Coach Forum, Austin Birks, said: 'CILT represents the whole transport industry; service operators, government and local authorities and academic researchers. While the research is clearly with just one part of the industry, we believe that the findings will be of interest to all who want to promote better bus services.’
The Bus Services Bill, which covers England, had its second reading in the House of Lords this week.
Last year, Scotland's then transport minister, Derek Mackay, said councils in the devolved nation were 'not in a place' to take on the same responsibilities as Transport for London and warned that regulation would 'stop investment' from bus companies.