We appear in England’s first ever National Bus Strategy
2 weeks ago
Passengers and buses got a boost in March with the publication of the government’s first ever long-term bus strategy for England, Bus Back Better.
You can read it here.
The strategy talks about how local councils and bus companies can work together to achieve simpler fares, improved routes, new buses, and higher frequencies, all with the aim of improving bus services for passengers and moving towards zero emissions.
You can spot Brighton & Hove and Metrobus several times in the strategy. The successful partnerships we have with local councils are held up as a winner for delivering better bus services for passengers.
These partnerships - like the one we have with Brighton and Hove City Council - deliver tangible improvements for passengers, like good real-time information, bus priority measures that cut through congestion, good passenger facilities, value for money fares and investment in zero or ultra-low emissions buses.
Indeed, the strategy says that bus companies should form Enhanced Partnerships with local councils, which will effectively deepen and formalise the strong relationships we already have with local authorities and, crucially, secure further improvements for passengers, like faster bus journeys. Another option is for councils to move to a franchising system.
Metrobus’ Fastway scheme, which links Horley, Gatwick Airport and Crawley, also gets a mention. Passenger numbers on the Fastway service have grown more than 160% over the past ten years, along with higher levels of customer satisfaction and quicker journeys. You might also recognise Lewes Road driving instructor Rebecca Kite in the report.
While we are already doing many of the things the government wants to see bus companies doing, like making all our bus accessible for everyone, introducing contactless payments and price capping, there is always more to do. Whether that is expanding multi-modal ticketing, so one ticket covers different forms transport, or getting better at listening to our customers and anticipating their needs.
The future looks bright for buses, with the National Bus Strategy and some long-term government funding behind it, though we wait for more details on this. It’s an encouraging sign that the government is committed to building buses back better during and after Covid at the highest level. It is a bold vision for a significant increase in bus priority measures, including more bus lanes and priority at traffic lights for buses.
Key bus facts from the National Bus Strategy
Buses are by far the nation’s favourite mode of public transport
People make twice as many journeys on buses than on trains
Brighton & Hove has the highest bus use in England per head outside London
On buses, 44% of trips are for work or education, compared with 27% of solo car journeys
More than three-quarters of job seekers don’t have regular access to a car, van, or motorbike
Only 3% of transport greenhouse gas emissions come from buses and coaches
The government allocated £3 billion to transform bus services in England in February 2021
You can read about why the bus is important to two of our passengers below.
Andy lives in Seaford and runs a business in Newhaven. He regularly catches the bus between the two places for work. He also uses the bus to go shopping at the weekends. Andy is registered blind.
Andy said: “Most of the time, I need to catch the bus for work. To be honest with you, getting the bus is what gives me my independence. I don’t want to keep relying on my wife to ferry me about. The bus gives me that bit of independence and experience. The drivers don’t rush me, and they don’t put me under any pressure.”
Andy said he felt safe travelling during the pandemic.
“I honestly believe the bus company has done everything it possibly can to make the bus safe. There’s no reason that you are more likely to get Covid on a bus; you’re more likely to get it in a supermarket. I still wear a mask on the bus for my own safety, even though I have a Helping Hand exemption card.
“I’m quite an outgoing person and the bus means I don’t feel trapped and reliant on other people. I know there’s a bus stop down the road and I can go myself. I’m not a person to stand by and let everyone do everything for me. The bus is good for disabled people.”
Fran Hamilton (no relation)
Fran is an NHS occupational therapist. She can catch one of three buses from her home in Brighton to a memory clinic in Hove for people living with dementia. She also uses the bus to catch up with friends, when not in lockdown.
Fran said: “The bus enables me to get to work without needing to deal with the traffic. I will make the point of using the bus when I’m in town.”
Fran co-facilitates D-Mob, a Brighton peer support group for people living with dementia. She is impressed with the buses’ light-coloured dementia-friendly floors and signs asking people to remember that not all disabilities are visible.
“Our group and our families feel very safe on the bus. Drivers are helpful, friendly, supportive and they take their time. The floors are ground breaking. If you get things right for people with dementia, you’re getting it right for everyone.”
Fran said blocked off seats, reduced bus capacity and social distancing signs, all made her feel confident catching the bus during the pandemic.