Zonal ticketing systems could end ‘wasteful’ local bus services
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Cuts to bus services, wasteful bidding processes and inadequate transport planning is hindering public transport services in towns and cities outside London, a report has found.
The House of Lords Built Environment Committee (BEC) expressed concerns that the end of pandemic support funding for bus services in March 2023, with forecast cuts of up to 20 per cent, could have a detrimental effect on the people who rely on public transport and risk triggering a downward spiral of reducing demand.
The post-pandemic demand for public transport still remains unpredictable and peak commuter traffic may have been permanently reduced. However, travel for leisure, at weekends and throughout the day has broadly recovered more quickly than commuter travel.
Decisions on funding beyond next March “are urgently needed”, the BEC said, as it called on the government to ensure high-quality bus services around the country.
The 'Public transport in towns and cities' report has proposed zonal ticketing systems in large towns and cities - similar to that already employed in London - that would make contactless ticketing easier to deliver.
It also found that the process of local authorities bidding for competitive central government capital funding is costly and inefficient and it called on the government to consider moving to a system of periodic block grants which could encourage “more coherent and long-term transport delivery”.
The National Bus Strategy was introduced in 2021 by the Department for Transport with plans to introduce new routes and simplify fares.
It also created a requirement for local transport authorities to adopt partnerships with private bus operators or establish a franchising scheme, the effectiveness of which should now be monitored closely by central government, the report said.
Lord Moylan, BEC chair, said: “We have called on the government to take action on the areas inhibiting the delivery of quality public transport services in towns and cities outside London.
“One of the immediate problems is the end of pandemic support funding for buses in March 2023, which could lead to bus cuts of up to 20 per cent and risk a downward spiral of reducing demand. This would hit the poorest hardest.
“The government should also improve the way transport projects are funded, by moving away from local areas bidding for competitive central government capital funding, which is costly, resource intensive and inefficient. Instead, there should be a system of more periodic block grants.
“A framework should be set to allow local authorities to better coordinate local plans and transport planning.”
David Renard, transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, said: “Several councils already see the benefits of fare zoning in their areas.
“The benefits of fare zoning could reach many more people if the government were to provide additional powers.
“A greater role for councils in local rail services, a through-ticketing system and greater franchising powers would help councils everywhere boost public passenger numbers.”
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