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Bus speeds falling faster in Glasgow than in the rest of the UK

14 Sep 2016

Bus speeds are falling faster in Glasgow than in the rest of the UK, according to a new report today.

Bus speeds in the city are dropping by 15% per decade compared to an average of 10% for the rest of the UK, says the study.

This has led to an “alarming” decline in bus passenger numbers, putting the future of the bus sector in Glasgow under threat, according to the report commissioned by Greener Journeys, the sustainable transport group.

In the 10 years up to 2014/15, the number of people using buses across the Strathclyde region fell by 22%, equivalent to 49 million fewer bus passengers.

Prof David Begg, who wrote the report, said that traffic congestion in Glasgow was a key factor behind the drop in bus speeds and bus passenger numbers.

The figures on bus passengers and bus speeds in Glasgow are part of a wider study on congestion and its impact on bus travel, which will be launched in Westminster on Wednesday.

Prof Begg launched the first part of his report, The Impact of Congestion on Bus Passengers, in June. It found that online shopping deliveries and the rise of Uber have contributed to a growing congestion crisis across the UK.

The report also claimed that if journey times continue to decline at their current rate, bus passenger numbers will drop by between 10% and 14% every 10 years, putting the future of the bus sector under threat.

Prof David Begg, Visiting Professor at Plymouth University and former chairman of the Government’s Commission for Integrated Transport, who authored the report, said:

“If you combine falling bus speeds with relatively cheap subsidised competition from an impressive urban rail network, and cheap and abundant public car parking, it explains why Glasgow has experienced an alarming decline in bus patronage over the past decade.

 “Traffic congestion is a disease which left unchecked will destroy the bus sector. This is a dire and sensational prediction, but the evidence uncovered in this research leads to no other conclusion. Urgent action is required from industry, local government and Whitehall to reduce people’s reliance on cars and encourage more sustainable modes of transport.”

Claire Haigh, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, said:

“This report underlines the shocking growth of congestion and its enormous impact on bus users in particular. Measures such as contactless payments and effective bus priority measures are essential in order to ease congestion and encourage greater bus patronage.

“Buses make such a significant contribution to our economy and local communities and rising congestion levels pose a direct threat to services. We must act now to ensure that increasing traffic levels do not impact upon the viability of bus travel.

The report says that official targets for average bus speeds and the national introduction of contactless payments by 2019, three years earlier than planned, could help to ease congestion.

Other measures to be considered include charging van drivers making deliveries during peak hours; introducing more road schemes such as bus lanes; and encouraging bus companies to provide more up-to-date travel information for passengers, says the report.

Buses carry more commuters than all other forms of public transport combined and help to generate £64bn per year for local economies, while helping vulnerable people across the country stay connected with their communities.