Thought leadership

Top three themes from the Transport Times ‘Transport After the General Election’ Event

As the UK prepares for the general election, the public transit industry gathered to explore the current state and future direction of bus services in the UK.

2 min read
May 31, 2024

The Snapper Services team was in London last week for the Transport Times ‘Transport After the General Election’ event. Key industry leaders and stakeholders shared their insights on the challenges and opportunities that will shape the sector for the next five years.

From the transformational to the transactional, read on for our top three takeaways from the discussions, and the path forward for UK bus services.

Transforming bus services under a new Government

1. Fragmentation and integration challenges

One of the most prominent themes was the fragmentation of bus regulation and the ongoing efforts to integrate bus services with other modes of transport. As more authorities adopt bus franchising, the need for a more unified approach is evident. Current regulatory frameworks are seen as complex, creating inefficiencies and a disjointed passenger experience.

Key points:

Collaboration: To enable further franchising, regulations and services must be streamlined in partnership with regional authorities.  

Simplified funding: Simplifying funding streams could enhance transparency and efficiency in developing local transit networks.

Data utilisation: Leveraging data is crucial for driving improvements and designing franchised networks. Accurate and comprehensive data helps assess performance, identify improvements and drive informed decision-making.  

2. Achieving modal shift amid cultural resistance

Encouraging a modal shift from cars to public transit emerged as a critical challenge and opportunity. This modal shift is necessary for reducing congestion, lowering emissions, and promoting public health. However, changing habits and entrenched views requires a strategic and empathetic approach.  

Key points:

Service quality and public perception: Enhancing the quality of bus services, including improving frequency, reliability, and punctuality to make bus travel more appealing.

Incentives: Offering incentives like a young person’s bus card to attract younger generations to buses and learn how to use the networks, promoting a lifelong habit.

Infrastructure investment: Investments that support bus services, like dedicated bus lanes and priority signals, significantly improve efficiency and create a smoother passenger experience.  

Changing the narrative: Public transit must be seen as a viable, attractive alternative to private cars. Collaborative efforts with local communities to promote the benefits of public transport and active travel, can drive this cultural shift.

3. Funding and investment

Securing long-term funding and making strategic investments in bus services supports regional planning. Poor transit infrastructure undermines economic growth, perpetuates social and economic inequalities, and harms the environment.  

Key points:

Commit to the plan: Ensuring sustained and substantial investment in bus services, focusing on long-term benefits rather than short-term fixes.

Devolution: Empowering local authorities with more power and transparent funding to deliver effective and efficient bus services.

Return on investment: Demonstrating the economic value of investing in bus services, especially in rural areas where public transport can significantly boost local economies.

Transparency and accountability: Ensuring transparency and accountability in how funds are utilised and outcomes are measured builds trust and shows stakeholders tangible benefits.  

Developing a fair system: Developing a fair devolution system that addresses the needs of under-resourced areas is essential for equitable transit development.

Enhancing the passenger experience

The overarching theme was the need to prioritise passengers’ experience in all aspects of bus service improvements.  Ensuring that bus services are accessible, affordable, and reliable is fundamental to enhancing the overall experience.  

By addressing the challenges of fragmentation, promoting a cultural shift towards public transit, and securing robust funding, the bus sector can undergo transformative changes. Emphasising the importance of data, collaboration, transparency, and accountability will further support these efforts. These measures will not only improve the quality of life for many across the UK but also contribute to broader goals of economic development, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability.

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Andy and Graeme

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