Bus services have been labelled ‘pivotal’ to local employment by a study raising further calls for stronger local powers to support ‘lifeline’ routes.
A new report from Passenger Transport Executive Group (pteg) suggests unemployed people are significantly more likely to use public transport than other modes, while one in ten bus commuters would be forced to leave work or look for another job entirely if bus services were withdrawn.
Figures suggest 60% of jobseekers in British cities outside of London feel they would have less chance of finding a job without bus services, while over three quarters do not have regular access to a car, van or motorbike.
Chair of Pteg, Dr Jon Lamonte, said: ‘This report provides further evidence of the pivotal role that public transport, and especially bus services, can play in determining whether people are able to find, accept and stay in employment.
‘It also presents a suite of policies that could tip the balance in favour of opportunity and social mobility and against unemployment and isolation. Get it right and we can ensure that people have not just a ticket to ride, but a ticket to thrive.’
The findings build on research suggesting bus services are helping to achieve 46 policy goals across half of Whitehall departments, including the Department of Heath and HM Treasury.
However pteg warned there were still a series of transport obstacles preventing people from accessing work, including poor connectivity of employment sites and a lack of trust in public transport.
Urban transport authorities also highlighted that commercial fares had risen by 26% over the last 10 years in metropolitan areas.
In a bid to overcome such barriers, the Ticket to Thrive report recommends the creation of a new funding deal to help local authorities protect crucial bus services and better connect people to areas of potential employment.
Warnings were raised that central government funding cuts had left transport authorities having to focus on meeting statutory responsibilities, often to the detriment of discretionary services that benefit jobseekers.
A new ring-fenced and devolved Connectivity Fund could protect bus funding streams and help councils protect important services, pteg said.
Further recommendations included handing transport authorities more effective powers over buses, with stronger controls over routes and fare affordability.
Calls were also raised for a government review into funding a national jobseeker and apprentice travel concession.