Bus passengers feel ‘let down’ in parts of England

Bus services vary widely on punctuality and value for money, a major passenger survey suggests.
Bus passengers feel 'let down' in parts of England
People boarding a bus in WhitbyGetty Images

Bus passengers around England receive a wide variation in service, and many feel “let down”, a major new passenger survey revealed.

Passenger watchdog Transport Focus asked people to rate 35,000 bus journeys across 34 local authorities last year.

80% were satisfied with their trips overall, but some areas scored much lower.

Charity Bus Users UK said cuts to services left many without bus access.

Punctuality and waiting times were areas which received low scores by many of those surveyed.

The East Riding of Yorkshire and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole came top with 90% satisfaction.

Passengers who were least satisfied with their buses were in West Yorkshire, where service was rated at 73%.

Other low scoring areas include Tees Valley, Durham and the West Midlands.

The results provide a benchmark study of passengers’ satisfaction, with marks given for punctuality, journey times, the bus driver and value for money and were collated from 34 local authority areas in England, excluding London.

The BBC spoke to bus users in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, some of whom laughed when asked if their bus was on time.

One person said buses were “constantly late, constantly missing, not turning up”, with others saying services regularly made them late for work or college, but added “if they turn up – they are good”.

In East Yorkshire, Timmy Ogunnuga was on the 23 bus. She uses buses for work and to explore different parts of the UK.

Timmy Ogunnuga

While she says they are “convenient”, she’s also faced problems. When the BBC spoke to her, her bus to work had not shown up so she was running late.

Meanwhile in West Yorkshire, outside Huddersfield bus station, Ian Buckley says he has noticed fewer services “than there used to be”.

He lives in a village a couple of miles outside Huddersfield and feels it’s not well served by buses.

“We could do with more. And we could do with better reliability for the school buses”, he told the BBC.

Ian Buckley

Mr Buckley’s children travel into Huddersfield for school. He says they often get stuck due to “delayed” or “missing” buses.

He says when buses are delayed “[they] end up having to do quite considerable detours and walk from the next village down”.

Tracey Brabin is the Mayor of West Yorkshire and said the situation is “hopeless”. Speaking to the BBC outside Leeds bus station, she said: “I am a bus user myself, I know there are too many delays, not many options and too many cuts to the services”.

There has been significant investment in buses in recent years, to try improve services after years of cuts. Just before the pandemic in 2020, former PM Boris Johnson announced bus services across the country would be transformed with simpler fares, new routes and cleaner buses. The following year the National Bus Strategy was launched and nicknamed “Bus Back Better”. A billion pounds of funding was allocated.

Ms Brabin said they’ve been spending £17m a year to improve journeys across West Yorkshire.

“We’ve been building bus priority lanes so buses don’t get stuck in traffic and recruiting and running courses for more bus drivers”, she added.

The bus satisfaction survey carried out by Transport Focus does target a captive audience: those who are lucky enough to be on a passenger on a bus.

But many services across Britain have been cut due to falling passengers numbers and revenues since the pandemic, meaning many areas and people become disconnected from the bus network.

David Sidebottom, director of Transport Focus, said: “It is good to see many passengers are satisfied with their journey. 80% overall satisfaction is a good start. However, wide variation in scores show that some passengers are being let down.

“As congestion continues to bite, government, bus operators and local authorities must work together so that passengers see the improvements in reliability, journey times and better value for money fares promised in the national bus strategy”.

Additional reporting by Hope Rhodes.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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