Better, cleaner cheaper buses?

Zero Emission buses? Reduced bus fares? better rural buses? Bus ‘Oyster’ card?

As we reported in August 2021, after 10 years of cutting support for bus services the Government seems to be making a ‘U-turn. They are asking local councils’ to produce a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) by 31st October 2021. Four councils in our region have a transport responsibility and they have the opportunity to submit a bid. They are: Brighton & Hove City Council, East Sussex County Council, Hampshire County Council and West Sussex County Council. The South Downs Network (SDN) have written to all these councils with a focus on rural communities and tackling greenhouse gas emissions pollution from vehicles. See our letter to the councils – click below:

Our key message to the councils is: 

  • Introduce zero emissions buses
  • Reduce bus fares
  • Introduce smaller buses in rural areas
  • Introduce an ‘oyster card’ for all bus and rail journey 

Climate Change:  Don’t just upgrade from older diesel buses to newer ones – go straight for zero emissions vehicles! 

Transport authorities lobby the Government to fund the replacement of ALL buses which are not zero emissions in the UK in the next 10 years to 2030. This is the date when the UN Climate Committee (IPCC) predict the planet will surpass a temperature of 1.5°C. 

We know that moving over to zero emissions buses will cost a lot of money. There is a solution without raising extra taxes. We suggest the likely cost of £12 billion is removed from National Highways (Highways England) motorway/trunk road budget of £27 billion. In this way there will be less pollution, cleaner air and less destruction of the countryside with big motorways.

Lower Bus Fares: Reducing fares on the bus services doesn’t mean to say you’re reducing the income for the bus company.  Lower fares can mean more passengers. There may be psychological barriers to people taking the bus but there are also financial barriers. If a cheap and reliable bus service can be provided it will attract more passengers especially if integrated with ‘rover’ tickets which allow you to move from bus to train without buying another ticket.

We believe there should be a ‘levelling up’ for rural communities! We support CPRE in their proposal for the government entitled Every village, every hour The CPRE wants rural bus services restored to 2010 levels and they suggest £3 billion is removed from the National Highways (Highways England) budget to pay for the restoration of bus services.

Rural communities need to be treated fairly. London prices for a single ticket is effectively the same as it was in in 2005, – a single zone-one fare for Oyster card users was £1 in 2005. Now it is only £1.55 to travel anywhere in the whole city!  But in the South Downs National Park the fare for a five-mile journey in Hampshire costs £5.65!!

Introduce smaller buses in rural areas

The English countryside, with its small towns and villages, is largely connected with the outside world by winding narrow English country lanes.  Wide buses have difficulty in navigating these narrow lanes.  The way forward is to connect villages to trains and bus stations with smaller buses.

Introduce an ‘oyster card’ for all bus and rail journeys 

If we want people to use public transport, then we have to bring the ticketing system into the 21st century. We need an ‘Oyster card’ type system across all bus operators and rail operators. No more queuing at rail stations.  no more finding the right change to join a bus service.  No more buying separate tickets for rail journeys and bus journeys.

Here is a summary of the proposals we have put to the councils:

  • Introduction of smaller buses on rural routes
  • Support for community bus services capable of taking mobility scooters 
  • On certain routes buses could carry trailers or racks to allow for the integration of cycling and bus use for tourists and local users.
  • Create new or improved bus laybys
  • Create safe (traffic light) crossings near important bus stops
  • Create bus lanes at congestion ‘pinch’ points (roundabouts and junctions)
  • Provide bus shelters
  • Provide secure cycle lockers near main bus stops
  • RTPI signs in rural areas (real time passenger information displays)
  • Infrastructure/turning areas at rail stations
  • Develop bus hubs and bus stations
  • Combine profitable urban routes with longer journeys into rural villages
  • Create ‘rover’ tickets that offer combined travel valid across different bus and train operators. An ‘oyster card’ for rural areas!
  • Park & Ride to tourist attractions & events
  • Promote special event bus services (concerts/sports/out of town event)
  • New bus routes connecting with rail stations: Rail (including heritage railways) & bus planning to be integrated
  • Bus services for new housing & commercial developments
  • Provision of more community dial-a-ride and door-to-door services in rural areas
  • Funding is needed to help transport authorities provide the necessary staff levels to work on integrated service projects.
  • ‘Seed corn’ money to kickstart a new service which can then go on to operate commercially. 
  • Combined ticketing and car parking charges to make ‘car to train’ and ‘car to bus’ more attractive
  • Provision of cycle pickup and drop-off services for tourist locations and events
  • Engage with public and commercial tourist organisations for joint bus and mobility projects in the countryside/villages
  • Reduce bus fares for rural routes – especially where there is no public transport alternative
  • Under 26 and students/young workers bus pass with 50% discount – at all times
  • Hop on and off day rover tickets across all operators and rail services
  • Lower season ticket prices
  • Under 11s go free
  • Discounts for mums with prams (children go free)

This appeal to councils follows our message to the government in our response to the Rural Transport Review in Feb 2021. See our submission and a summary of what we said: Message to the Government – make rural transport a priority!

2 thoughts on “Better, cleaner cheaper buses?

  1. Well done! You seem to have touched on every significant point.
    I look forward to seeing how the four relevant authorities respond.

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