The Transport Select Committee has call on the government to bring forward a national bus strategy by the end of 2020.
In its report, Bus services in England outside London, the Transport Select Committee identified a lack of coordinated government policy, as well as the funding squeeze that many local authorities are suffering from, as reasons why bus use is declining.
Hundreds of bus routes have been withdrawn in England, according to the report; although it remains a popular form of public transport, the Transport Select Committee’s report “paints a picture of steady decline amid uncoordinated, fragmented government policy and squeezed funding for local authorities.”
As such, the government has been urged to set out clear ambitions for bus use and how local authorities will be supported to improve their services and boost passenger numbers.
A national bus strategy will help with this, and the Committee has called for this to be put in place. It should set out plans for making the full suite of operating models – such as franchising and the creation of municipal bus companies – available to all local authorities complete with guidance.
The national bus strategy should also include the description of a stable, multi-year funding model for local transport; assess the evidence for the effectiveness of bus priority measures; and set and track targets for modal shift, providing framework and guidance for local councils that encourage people to use buses.
The government is giving funding for buses with technology to clean up their fleets, but this improvement in air quality will have a greater chance of being realised if a strategy is put in place.
Lillian Greenwood, Chair of the Committee, said: “The government has strategies on rail investment and road development; it is now time to bring forward a strategy for bus services outside London.
“Core to the strategy should be the desire to make bus services more passenger focused and provide value for money, helping to bring more people, especially young people, onboard.
“This will also bring benefits for air quality, cutting carbon emissions and reducing congestion.”