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UK must ensure buses remain an important mobility driver, says Minister

In a speech, Minister Nusrat Ghani described the steps being taken to ensure the UK’s bus network serves communities’ transport needs, whilst meeting 21st century challenges.

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At 2019’s UK Bus Summit, Minister Nusrat Ghani spoke about the measures being taken to ensure the bus network continues to serve people’s transport needs, alongside enhancing mobility, economic growth and community cohesion.

Ghani highlighted the longevity of the bus as a mode of transport: 120 years have passed since the first motorised bus services were established in Britain, and although transport technologies have evolved and travel patterns have changed, buses have remained a constant, with two thirds of all public transport journeys in Britain in 2018 made by bus and coach.

Speaking in defence of buses after recent reports that passenger journeys were down, Ghani said: “4.4 billion individual bus journeys occurred in 2018 in England alone, and almost nine in 10 passengers say they are satisfied with their bus services.”

With the strong belief that the bus benefits societies, individuals and the environment, Ghani detailed what the government is doing to ensure that Britain’s bus network can continue to contribute.

“Firstly – if we want buses to thrive over the coming decades, it’s vital that we continue to improve, to innovate and to move with the times. And to do this we have to ensure that buses participate in the digital revolution all around us.

“The rise of technology highlighted by innovations such as CityMapper’s journey-planning app, as well as ride-sharing services like UberPool, are changing the way we get around and the way we think about transport.

“Increasingly, mobility is being viewed more as a service planned and paid for via a smartphone. So if bus services are to continue accounting for three quarters of journeys, the industry has to provide easy access to information about bus services, fares, payment methods and stops.”

She continued: “Technology changes should be seen as an opportunity – not a threat. For example, we can use new innovations to make buses accessible to all.

“Measures such as the Accessible Information Regulations, which will speed up the delivery of audible and visible information onboard local buses, with government funding of £2 million, will help smaller bus operators meet this commitment.

“Buses have a clear strategic advantage over other road transport modes in terms of the environment because they have the capacity to reduce car use, ease congestion and improve air quality.”

The government is supporting innovators who are focused on making buses cleaner. During 2018, the government announced £40 million of funding for 20 local authorities through the Clean Bus Technology Fund – providing grants of up to £500,000.

Ghani also announced the award of £48 million to operators and local authorities across the country to help achieve cleaner transport goals through more ultra-low-emission buses and charging technology.

In conclusion, Ghani spoke about partnership and the necessity to work together, stating: “I firmly believe that the quickest and most effective way of improving bus services is through partnership – whether it be through initiatives with government, working with local communities or effective collaboration between operators and local transport authorities to tackle congestion.

“While we can legislate to encourage partnerships, the impetus must come from you.”

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