Bus passengers 'have been let down'

Bus passengers have been let down by a lack of competition and a failure of deregulation, a report by a think-tank has said.

Bus journeys have increased in London, while decreasing outside the capital
Bus journeys have increased in London, while decreasing outside the capital

Bus services were privatised in 1986 but, while those outside London were also deregulated, those inside the capital remained subject to regulation.

From the IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) the report said that while Transport for London's (TfL) regulation of buses in the capital had proved a big success, deregulation elsewhere had "largely failed".

The report showed that that one in eight people working in Britain relied on the bus to get to work and that people made more than three times as many bus journeys as rail journeys - more than five billion each year.

The report said that the poorest made more than three times as many trips per year by bus than the richest, yet bus fares in England (outside London) had risen by 35% above inflation between 1995 and 2013, and by 34% in Wales and 20% in Scotland.

It added that 37% of weekly services outside London did not face any effective head-to head competition and just 1% of weekly services face effective head-to-head competition over all or most of their route.

The IPPR said o ver the last 30 years, bus passenger journeys had fallen outside London but grown in the capital. The report showed that overall bus use outside London fell by 32.5% since 1986, while rising by 99% in London.

The report recommended the creation of local transport bodies modelled on TfL .

IPPR associate director Will Straw said: "London has the best buses in Britain and that's no accident. TfL has been a great success while the deregulation of buses outside London has largely failed.

"Outside London, bus passenger journeys are down and fares are rising higher than inflation. Examples of successful bus markets outside London are all too rare so local transport bodies should be given greater powers to hold uncompetitive providers to account."

He went on: "As well as regulating bus services, routes and fares, these new bodies should have a wider role of encouraging better integration between buses and other modes of transport including rail.

"This will help increase the number of passengers using public transport. Responsibility for transport related to schools and hospitals should be devolved to these regional transport bodies with any savings made from achieving efficiencies retained and reinvested in other local sustainable transport projects."