The publication of ‘Buses Back Better’ in March – setting out a bus strategy for England - marked the biggest shift in policy since deregulation in 1986. In place of competition between bus operators as a major policy objective, and most services determined commercially, there is a very strong emphasis on a co-ordinated approach. In part this is based on experience of the system in London, which has shown strong ridership growth (despite some decline in recent years) over the period since 1986, versus a strong aggregate decline elsewhere (although care is needed in drawing such comparisons, to allow for local conditions). The London system is based on a planned network with competitive contracting of services to private operators to ensure service quality and cost control. Similar thinking is evident in policies adopted in Scotland and Wales.
The shift is to be attained by using powers already found in the Bus Services Act 2017, namely franchising (broadly the London model) and Enhanced Partnerships (EPs), in which a major role is played by the local transport authority, and operators co-operate. As future funds will be provided only for areas adopting these approaches (EPs are likely to be chosen in most cases), a marked strengthening is needed in local authority expertise to implement them, given cutbacks in recent years.
PTRC’s well-established two-day short course in public transport planning has been updated to provide understanding of these changes. The next training programme is scheduled for 8-9 June 2021.
Click here to download the DfT's national bus strategy for England.
Click here for more details on our 2-day Public Transport Planning training course.