Leading transport operator the Go-Ahead Group has called for a national bus strategy to address decline in the use of buses in the wake of a massive shakeup of the London network.
The Go-Ahead Group, which carries over two million passengers a day on its buses, has raised alarm at the decline in the use of buses and the sharp fall in patronage in recent years. It says bus use has slowed because increasing traffic congestion has lengthened journey times and made travelling by bus less attractive.
The group, which also owns rail operator Govia, said buses are crucial to social inclusion and play a role in tackling loneliness, the subject of a recently commissioned government review.
David Brown, Go-Ahead's chief executive, said a national strategy would allow local authorities to set targets for bus journey times and drive patronage growth across London.
“It’s a worrying sign that the English bus network has shrunk to its smallest size in more than 20 years. Passenger numbers have dropped by nine per cent since 2008 – we have to take action," he said.
“Rail, cycling and walking all have national strategies to secure the future of these sustainable modes of transport – so why not bus, a service which delivers more than 2.2bn journeys outside of London every year.”
Go-Ahead's intervention comes after Transport for London (TfL) last week launched the biggest overhaul of the bus network in London for 16 years.
TfL said the changes would "modernise" the network and enable growth in outer London, while taking into account passengers' increasing preference for the tube over the bus.
Under the new proposals the 48, 271 night service and RV1 routes will be axed, while routes 26, 35, 46, 149 and 242 will run less frequently.
TfL said it is carrying out the consultation to reduce congestion on London's roads and to address the falling demand for buses in the capital.
TfL has been approached for comment.