Our new report shows that a bus for every village, every hour is possible
We’ve run the numbers and it’s clear: with the right investment, our towns and villages could have a reliable, frequent and cheap bus service.
We’ve calculated that the one-off spending outlined in the government’s National Bus Strategy in March 2021, while full of ambitious plans, won’t succeed in giving travellers the ‘more frequent, more reliable, easier to understand and use, better coordinated and cheaper’ buses that it aspires to.
To run services that meet everyone’s needs, and especially those living in rural areas, the data in our Every village, every hour report shows that the government needs to make continuous year-on-year investment.
The good news? This can be achieved by redirecting just a portion of the funding planned for the government’s legally embattled and widely criticised multi-billion pound road-building schemes.
This could provide more than enough money to pay for CPRE’s vision – and leave enough left over to make fares free across these services.
The research, conducted by CPRE and Transport for Quality of Life, shows that, with the right investment, the government could deliver a world-leading bus network capable of matching Swiss standards. In Switzerland, every village of two to three hundred people is guaranteed at least an hourly bus service from 6am to midnight, 7 days a week.
At CPRE, we believe that this level of service is possible here too, and should be our aspiration as we build back better after the coronavirus pandemic. Limited public transport in rural areas isn’t a given or a natural side-effect of living in the countryside, and we want to see these communities better connected to give everyone the best quality of life.
Our chief executive, Crispin Truman, commented on the impact that neglecting these services has had on the countryside:
‘Rural communities up and down the country know from painful first-hand experience the impacts of underfunding our bus services.
‘Too many have been languishing in ‘transport deserts’, where those who do not have access to a car are left high and dry with no practical way to get to work, school or healthcare. Public transport for rural communities has been wholly inadequate for long enough.
‘Our new research shows that the Prime Minister’s recently announced investment in buses, while seemingly impressive, is a fraction of what’s actually needed to realise the vision espoused by ministers.’
A worthwhile investment
The new report builds upon previous CPRE research that found that over a million people in the south west and north east live in these so-called ‘transport deserts’.
These are areas where the only practical form of transport is a private car – a costly requirement which can drive low-income families and workers into poverty and leave those without cars isolated. In our report, we’re calling on the government to recognise a universal basic right to public transport.
We know that better rural bus services can change lives. This kind of investment will disproportionately benefit low-income families, the elderly and the young. By providing an alternative to private car travel, local bus services can reduce traffic, air pollution and boost high street spending, employment, social mobility and equality – all things that we at CPRE are passionate about.
We now need to see the government commit to improving the quality of life for all by funding buses better.
As Crispin says:
‘To avoid another situation where rhetoric doesn’t meet delivery, we’re calling on the government to significantly raise the level of investment in our ailing bus services and recognise a universal basic right to public transport.
‘Our research shows this investment will pay dividends – that’s why bigger bucks for buses is an absolute no-brainer.’
Call for better buses with us
Add your voice to ours to make sure the government listens and makes the commitment to make buses better. Become a CPRE member to support our ongoing work or sign our petition to the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, calling for reliable buses for every town and village.