• Bus operator writes to local politicians across the north east
• Stagecoach says passengers are ‘paying the price for short-sighted policies’
• Bus speeds in Newcastle dropped by almost 7 percent in past five years and by 4 percent in past four years in the Tees Valley
Stagecoach North East has urged politicians to take tough action on congestion and put buses at the heart of their plans to improve local air quality across the North East.
The transport company has written to local politicians – including MPs and local councillors - across the UK to warn of the worrying impact of congestion and to give examples of the ways in which this growing problem is affecting local bus customers every day.
Nationwide research showed that the direct and indirect costs of congestion to all UK motorists amounted to over £37.7 billion in 2017, an average of £1,168 per driver, with drivers spending an average of 31 hours a year in congestion during peak hours.
Stagecoach’s own research has also shown the extent of the problem. Over the last five years, Stagecoach North East has had to increase the number of vehicles required during peak times by 10 extra buses in Newcastle and five extra buses in Teesside, as a result of traffic congestion. Using additional vehicles and drivers to try and maintain punctuality for our customers adds over £2m each year.
Recent research issued by Greener Journeys also showed that the Government’s seven-year freeze on fuel duty has resulted in a 4 percent increase in traffic since 2011 and a similar decrease in public transport use, equal to up to 60 million fewer rail journeys and 200 million fewer bus journeys across the country.
Stagecoach North East Managing Director, Steve Walker, said: “This is not specifically about Stagecoach, or any other bus company – it’s about the impact of congestion on bus passengers and other road users in the area and the situation simply cannot continue if we are to continue improving the local bus network and improving the local environment.
“Our passengers are paying the price for short-sighted policies that have led us to this point – we urgently need politicians to take practical action to get our towns and cities moving again.
“Buses are key to delivering this – effective bus networks can boost the local economy, improve traffic flow, reduce air pollution and help improve air quality. We are playing our part by investing in improvements for customers including in digital technology, new routes and new vehicles, but we need politicians to play their part to help buses flourish. All of the tools exist for them to take action now.”
Traffic congestion significantly impacts bus customers in a number of ways, including journey times, reliability, satisfaction levels and the cost of their ticket.
Stagecoach has revealed that a 10 percent decrease in operating speed leads to an 8 percent rise in operating costs – and, despite the company’s attempts to protect customers as much as possible; these increased costs invariably push prices up for passengers. This can lead to fewer people taking the bus, potentially resulting in even more cars on the road.
In its letter, Stagecoach has offered to meet with elected members to talk through the local issues, traffic hotspots and potential solutions, including changes that can be made to road infrastructure and layout, traffic management systems and priority schemes.