Cambridgeshire mayor says current regional bus network is not fit for purpose
A new Centre for Cities’ report, supported by three bus operators, has called on England’s metro mayors to take control of bus networks in order to double passenger numbers.
The report criticises the current deregulated system, describing them as ‘local private monopolies’ that have failed to deliver on the promise of better services and increased choice for passengers.
Instead, the report says, prices have risen and the quality of services has fallen relative to car and rail. Meanwhile socially-important bus routes are often cut to safeguard profits, leaving local authorities to pick up the tab.
The report recommends that all metro mayors should begin the process of bringing bus networks under their control. The government has already given them powers to do this but most have been slow to use them so far. If the next government and metro mayors show the political will, then franchising urban bus networks numbers could be worth £805m to the national economy over the next decade.
In London, between 1999 and 2009, the number of annual bus journeys on the franchised network increased by one billion while in almost every other major city they declined.
Andrew Carter, Centre for Cities chief executive, said: “Bus deregulation promised to give passengers more choice and lower fares but 30 years on it has failed. To reverse this trend, metro mayors should use the powers that they already possess and franchise their local bus networks. They should also set themselves an ambitious target to double the number of passengers using buses.”
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor James Palmer said: “Buses form a fundamental component of our public transport offering but the network we currently have is not fit for purpose. We are currently undertaking a major review of bus services across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and all options will be considered to bring in the improvements that are urgently needed.”