Government’s £5 billion boost for Buses New Opportunities or simply reversing austerity cuts?

Government’s £5 billion boost for Buses New Opportunities or simply reversing austerity cuts?

There was an exciting announcement last week about an extra £5 billion in funding to improve local bus transport, it is a great headline but what does this mean in reality though? With further details coming later in the year on the initiative, we thought it would be worthwhile running a series of blogs looking at the act as more details emerge, the reason for it and how our software tools can help out.  For those that missed the announcement the main highlights are below: –

  • Higher frequency services, including evenings and weekends, to make it easier and less restrictive for people to get around at any time of day
  • More ‘turn up and go’ routes where, thanks to higher frequency, people won’t have to rely on timetables to plan journeys
  • New priority schemes will make routes more efficient, so that buses avoid congested routes and can speed passengers through traffic
  • More affordable, simpler fares
  • At least 4,000 new Zero Emission Buses to make greener travel the convenient option, driving forward the UK’s progress on its net zero ambitions

Some might say it will simply plug the cuts made over the years of austerity but with access to better data, now could be time to really take an in depth look at current bus transport strategy in light of the National Bus Strategy being published later this year.

For us at Basemap, it starts with data, there is detailed public transport data that goes back many years and gives us a baseline to see visually and in numbers where cuts have been made, you always hear commentary that buses have been cut in my area, but it is hard to ascertain the reality, this is why data is key.

Basemap did some analysis for the BBC last year which analysed the number of bus journeys across all regions of the UK for a specific week in January from 2014 to 2019 and it identified over 90 million fewer bus journeys per week in 2019, when compared to 2014. We have decided to extend this and look at 2020 as well, the table of results in shown below: –

The numbers threw up some interesting statistics, one area of the country, East Anglia, saw a 43% reduction in the number of bus journeys overall in that 5-year period.  Interestingly only 1 area saw a small increase, South East and London showed a continued increase up until 2017 where it has tailed off. This might indicate why the government are targeting investment in the North of England and that London is not included in this recent announcement.  The chart below shows the steady decline in scheduled busy services:-

If you extrapolate the full GB results up, this shows there are over 2 million less scheduled bus trips taking place over this time period.  We do need to do some further analysis as it could be the case that different services have merged which would be missed by this analysis but is exactly the type of work which can be completed with our TRACC software.

Ask this, if you had a blank sheet of paper would your bus network be designed as it is now? Basemap’s market leading TRACC software is used extensively across UK councils and transport planners to do just that, because TRACC allows the user to fully edit the road and public transport networks. This provides the opportunity to change, remove, and merge existing bus routes as well as create completely new ones.  We will explore this more in some future blogs to look at how connectivity and accessibility has changed over the past 6 years.

As the government add detail to their plans over the coming months, we will be watching closely and looking at specific areas in future blogs, so keep an eye out for more information. If you are interested in finding out more about our public transport data and analysing it through our TRACC software, please contact lchine@basemap.co.uk

Dan has over 10 years experience as a Product Manager at Basemap looking at the full product life cycle using AGILE/SCRUM and liaises between key stakeholders and developers to ensure first class applications are built. He is the resident expert on data and software solutions that Basemap offer its clients.