David Brown: The importance of the bus

The bus is such an important part of every community.

It is relied upon by millions of passengers who have no access to cars.

All I ever get asked about is rail, but when you look at the figures below you wonder why more emphasis is not put on the bus industry:

  • 3.5m people in the UK travel to work by bus
  • Nearly 60% of all public transport journeys are by bus
  • 10% of bus commuters would be forced to look for another job or give up work if they could not get a bus.

Despite this, passenger numbers across the UK continue to fall, which is part of a long-term trend.

So it’s important that we think about, for instance, how do we attract millennials to take the bus?

Do they expect end-to-end, intermodal solutions at the touch of a button or a bus that offers additional amenities?

How do we help make owning a car when you live in a city unnecessary? Because we know non- car owners (as opposed to cars users) will make more public transport trips.

At Go-Ahead we believe that there should be no barrier to bus usage for anyone. We are rolling out our helping hand accessibility card across all our services, which was designed by our own experts in partnership with our customers. The card helps passengers let the driver know if they have accessibility issues, or if they need a fellow passenger to offer them a seat. The card has been successfully launched by Brighton and Hove Buses and will now to rolled out across all our services.

We have also tried to make fares as easy to understand as possible, to help occasional users overcome fears that have about knowing what ticket to buy and if they will have enough money. In Plymouth and Newcastle, we have had great success with a flat rate network-wide £1 child fare, which is encouraging children and parents to travel more often. We also offer mobile ticketing, contactless payments and smartcards across Go-Ahead’s services, so that worrying about cash becomes a thing of the past. And, if you want to travel by train, bus and car club, you can do it all on one smartcard or ticket in Brighton.

Councils and local authorities also have a vital role to play in helping people to travel by bus, reducing congestion through road pricing, developing park and rides and creating the environment in which we can deliver fast and reliable services.

Looking to the future, we are looking for ways to tackle air pollution.

We have been expanding our electric bus fleet and rolling out buses that use alternative fuel. We worked very closely with TFL to convert our Waterloo bus garage into what is now Europe’s largest all electric fleet and depot facility.  We need to work together across manufactures, local authorities, electricity suppliers if we want to make wide scale electric buses a reality.

- David Brown, Chief Executive of The Go-Ahead Group from 2011 to 2021