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Facing up to transport challenges in difficult times

Posted: 28 October 2010 | Simon Posner, Chief Executive, Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) | No comments yet

For Intelligent Transport, Simon Posner, Chief Executive at the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) explains what challenges lay ahead for Britain’s bus, coach and light rail operators, following the recent general election.

Transport is the life blood of any modern economy. It plays a major role in developing environmental, economic, and health policies. Transport in all its modes oils the wheels of industry and provides a strong, robust infrastructure and services sector which ensures that UK PLC makes the most of scarce resources. No modern central or local government can ignore the need to construct efficient and punctual transport services.

For Intelligent Transport, Simon Posner, Chief Executive at the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) explains what challenges lay ahead for Britain’s bus, coach and light rail operators, following the recent general election. Transport is the life blood of any modern economy. It plays a major role in developing environmental, economic, and health policies. Transport in all its modes oils the wheels of industry and provides a strong, robust infrastructure and services sector which ensures that UK PLC makes the most of scarce resources. No modern central or local government can ignore the need to construct efficient and punctual transport services.

For Intelligent Transport, Simon Posner, Chief Executive at the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) explains what challenges lay ahead for Britain’s bus, coach and light rail operators, following the recent general election.

Transport is the life blood of any modern economy. It plays a major role in developing environmental, economic, and health policies. Transport in all its modes oils the wheels of industry and provides a strong, robust infrastructure and services sector which ensures that UK PLC makes the most of scarce resources. No modern central or local government can ignore the need to construct efficient and punctual transport services.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) is the trade association which represents the interest of the bus, coach and light rail industry to Government and Key Stakeholders in the United Kingdom. Tracing its roots back to the beginning of the light rail and bus industry at the end of the 19th and early 20th century, CPT is well versed in how to represent the view of over a thousand members ranging from the smallest family operators to some of the worlds largest public transport companies.

The success of the industry is backed-up by the fact that travelling by bus and coach is the safest form of passenger transport, as well as being one of the greenest in the UK. A recent survey by Passenger Focus, the independent public body set up this year by the government to protect the interests of passengers, found nearly nine out of ten in England were satisfied with their bus service. This survey looked at many aspects of the services our members operate including punctuality, frequency, helpfulness and the attitude of the driver and ‘value for money’. Such a success is backed-up by:

» Over 5 billion passenger journeys are taken in the UK on buses and coaches every year

» Bus and coach passenger journeys make up over two thirds of all transport usage

» Over 170,000 people are employed in the bus and coach industry

» Government statistics show overall satis – faction with bus services in England is currently 82%

» Only 3% of UK transport sector emissions are from buses and coaches (as opposed to 54% from cars)

» One coach takes the place of 20 cars on our roads.

CPT is keen to explore ways to build on the successes of our industry and improve the services we offer to our passengers. We therefore took the opportunity that the 2010 British General Election provided and published a Manifesto, designed to highlight issues that our members felt were a priority for an incoming government. These are:

Improving bus services

The Issue

The best way to really improve bus services is by local authorities and bus operators working together in partnership.

The CPT policy

Over the past six months, CPT and the Passenger Transport Executive Groups (pteg) have worked together to identify ways in which such partnerships could be maximised and made to work. In early-2010, we launched www.buspartnership.com and we would encourage anyone concerned about passenger services and interested in improving them to visit this site.

The industry is also working in partnership with the main passenger transport groups (and the Association of Train Operating Companies) introducing‘PLUSBUS’, the nation-wide train-to-bus ticketing scheme. We look to the next government to assist in the expansion and further development of the scheme as part of any proposed national integrated ticketing strategy.

Coach passengers need consideration in major planning applications

The Issue

Planning applications for major developments, hotels, theatres, shopping centres etc, fail to take account of the needs of coach passengers and drivers.

The CPT policy

The needs of the coach passenger and driver must be addressed more seriously at the planning stage by local authorities. We understand this is an issue for planners and a difficult problem for local politicians to face, but failure to do so results in increased traffic congestion, pollution and significant losses to local economies as coach passengers and operators look to venues that do provide appropriate facilities.

Promoting modal shift from cars to buses and coaches

The Issue

Getting people to leave their cars at home and travel on buses or coaches that are already there is the simplest way of reducing transport gas emissions.

The CPT policy

To help achieve the Greener Journeys’ one billion target, CPT is calling on the government to promote more priority measures for buses and coaches. We believe targets for local authorities to deliver modal shift that would help incentivise action. Park and ride schemes are also hugely generative of modal shift and the potential for more low-cost schemes is enormous, particularly around our biggest cities. Parking policy is a major factor in determining whether people take the bus or the car to travel to work or make shopping trips and we need a consistent approach across the country. Integration of transport policy with land use planning is also essential to reduce car dependency and encourage people to switch to public transport. Smarter choices can deliver significant benefits very cost effectively. In particular, we would like to see more incentives for organisations to adopt Green Travel Plans, more support for school travel plans and greater personalised travel planning. This will see a reduction of 2 million tonnes of CO2, delivering an additional 50% reduction in CO2 from domestic transport to that anticipated over the same period by current Government policies. See www.greener-journeys.com for further details.

Costs and fares

The Issue

Proposed changes to the Bus Service Operator Grant are moving away from its fundamental purpose of promoting modal shift through cheaper fares for passengers and risks actually promoting the reverse to happen. Our passengers are also being discouraged by HMRC restrictions on the types of tickets that may be purchased as part of a green travel plan.

The CPT policy

The industry believes that the overall amount of public financial support must remain stable in order to keep fares reasonable. HMRC rules should be changed to enable employees to buy area network travelcards from their pre tax income under a green travel plan and use them in the evening and at weekends too. EU passenger rights The Issue The European Parliament has introduced a series of proposals aimed at providing com – parable passenger rights regimes across all travel modes. The CPT policy CPT looks to the UK government to maintain its firm line in exempting our local bus services from the legislation and continuing to oppose the many other draconian measures contained in the EU proposals.

Concessionary bus travel

The Issue

The bus concessionary fares scheme must be adequately and appropriately funded.

The CPT policy

We look to local and national governments to recognise and acknowledge the role the industry plays in delivering this wildly popular policy; and settle on a structure that ensures bus operators are properly recompensed for the passengers carried in line with the legislative framework.

Post election challenges

CPT circulated our manifesto to all outgoing parliamentarians as well as key stakeholders. We also issued it widely to the new government. While the make-up of the new government was not perhaps anticipated by everyone, it has given the industry a good opportunity to reinforce our key messages.

On the domestic front, one of the first challenges the industry has faced has been to make the case to the Conservative Liberal coalition that any proposal to cut or reduce the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) – a partial rebate on the fuel duty bus operators pay – would not be a productive move. CPT has been working hard with our members to ensure that as part of the current Comprehensive Spending review this funding will not be cut or abolished, seriously effecting operators’ ability to operate more marginal and peripheral bus routes.

While the outcome of the review remains uncertain, it is clear that our voice has been heard as the minister responsible for buses, Norman Baker, said on the record in the House of Commons on 29 June: “The benefits of that grant are clear: it ensures that the bus network remains as broad as possible, while keeping fares lower and bringing more people on to public transport, with the obvious benefits of reducing congestion, lowering carbon emissions and improving air quality in our towns and cities.”

However, economic times are hard and the government is severely cutting public spending and hard choices will clearly have to be made.

Away from government, the immediate challenge our local bus services face from the European Parliament is their proposals on passenger rights. The position remains tremendously uncertain and there is the fear that some form of compromise is on the cards. Rarely has it been more important for a trade association to be close to its national policy maker.

Looking forward, over next few years the industry will face a number of tests, the biggest of which is to ensure that we adapt to cope with the difficult economic conditions likely to continue. But the greatest challenge we face and the issue that is the most important to our customer is punctuality. This means that we have to look for ways to help reduce congestion by working in partnership with our local authorities and government.

About the Author

Simon Posner

Simon Posner has been Chief Executive at the Confederation of Passenger Transport since 2006. Simon joined CPT’s Communications Department in 1995 to head CPT’s political and media campaigning following a career in the Department for Transport. During his time with the Department he worked in a number of different areas including the Mobility Unit, the Parliamentary Branch and a long stint in the Minister’s Private office.

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