08 May 2019
The bus is a key component of the transport network in the north east. Many people rely on the bus to get to work, education, health and leisure opportunities and for many it provides a socially necessary service. For many others, it provides an alternative to travelling by private car and contributes significantly to reducing congestion on the region’s road network.
Bus use in the north east is declining. In 2017/18 there were 26.5 million trips by bus in the north east, a decline of 3.4 million trips in the 3 years up to then.
The proportion of people travelling to work by bus in Aberdeen is 11% and in Aberdeenshire, just 4%.
Both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire face very different challenges when it comes to bus provision, with the rural nature of Aberdeenshire making it difficult to serve by public transport. Aberdeenshire Council therefore supports a large number of socially necessary bus services that would not be commercially viable for a private bus operator.
These are not issues exclusive to the north east, declining bus patronage is a national trend across the UK (with the exception of London) and constrained public sector budgets across the country are resulting in reductions in rural bus services.
The role of the bus in the region’s transport network should not however be underestimated. The vast majority of public transport trips undertaken in the region are by bus. Although rail has a significant role to play, currently only 1-2% of journeys to work are undertaken by rail due to the limited extent of the network in the north east. The bus therefore plays a vital role in supporting the economy, reducing social exclusion, reducing congestion and contributing to improved air quality in our town and city centres.
Bus operators across Scotland are calling for practical change to help buses flourish and deliver better services for bus passengers.
Independent research by KPMG, examined Scottish patronage trends and concludes that, despite bus industry efforts to boost passenger numbers and develop services, operators are being hampered by a range of factors including rising car use, congestion, changing shopping habits and reduced public sector investment.
It states the “the policy debate needs to reach beyond ownership and regulation of the bus market to consider alternative ways in which operators, technology firms and local authorities can form alliances to meet the challenges ahead by creating an environment that encourages service and product innovation, together with improved infrastructure asset management and supportive longer term policies on land-use and transport planning to cater for Scotland’s changing economic and social needs”.
Questions for consideration
Although we welcome comments on the range of issues related to this topic, we have posed some key questions below for consideration in any response you may wish to make.
- What role does the bus have in the region’s transport network to 2040?
- How do we increase the number of people travelling by bus?
- Should bus users be given more priority on the road network over the private car?
- How do we change the image of bus travel?
- How do we address the funding challenge to provide more investment in the infrastructure and technology that the bus industry needs to flourish?
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