Bus operators have lashed out at pedestrianisation schemes that exclude buses from key corridors in Manchester and Aberdeen.
Governments across Great Britain are backing the rapid implementation of wider pavements and pop-up bike lanes to enable social distancing as lockdown restrictions are eased. But there are fears that bus services, and the people who depend on them, are being overlooked.
Bus operator Transdev is calling for a rethink on last last month’s partial pedestrianisation of Deansgate in central Manchester.
“This change has made life much more difficult for those who need direct access to the heart of the city most of all – those who cannot walk the long distance to and from alternative stops on a long diversion route,” said Transdev CEO Alex Hornby. “It’s bad news for vulnerable people who depend on our buses as their only means of transport.”
Meanwhile, in Aberdeen, the city’s biggest bus operators have criticised the city council for progressing at short notice with their plans to close Union Street. This key thoroughfare for buses has been closed since May 30, from 6am to 6pm.
“To make a decision that will make life even more difficult for people needing to use these services for essential travel during this difficult time is nothing short of putting the boot in, especially when seats on our services are already limited due to social distancing measures, for our key workers who are on the frontline saving lives every day,” said Andrew Jarvis, managing director of First Bus in Scotland.
Bus bailouts ‘a bad deal for taxpayers’
Government bailouts of private bus and rail operators are a “bad deal for taxpayers” according to Steve Rotheram, the mayor of the Liverpool City Region.
In a virtual sitting to the House of Commons transport select committee last week, the mayor claimed that the funding streams set up in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown gave little incentive for companies operating across transport modes to integrate services. Rotheram told members that the money should instead go directly to mayors and transport authorities, who could ensure that the services were put on that best served the public.
Stagecoach to ‘move on’ after court ruling
The High Court last week ruled against Stagecoach Group’s claims against the secretary of state for transport regarding decisions to disqualify it from three rail franchise competitions.
The Perth-based group decided to sue the government after last year being disqualified from bidding for the East Midlands and West Coast Partnership franchise competitions, and the abandoned contest for South Eastern. The case centred on the disqualification from bidding after Stagecoach and its partners refused to take on what the group termed “unknowable risk” in pensions liabilities.
“We believe there were important issues which needed to be determined by the court to help secure the future of the country’s rail system and our view remains that we were right not to accept the risks in these contracts,” the group said. “Nevertheless, while we are disappointed at today’s ruling, we accept the decision and move on.”
‘Public transport AND active travel required’
As lockdown restrictions begin to be eased, with many people starting to travel again, an alliance of charities and NGOs is highlighting the importance of public, community and shared transport, combined with walking and cycling, during the recovery period.
The organisations are underlining that we are at a critical juncture with transport and travel, “with a chance to reset transport priorities, putting people’s communities, health and wellbeing, and our environment, at the forefront”. With efforts underway across Britain to develop space and facilities for walking and cycling, the group is reminding of the importance of linking these improvements with public, community and shared transport connections.
The eight national organisations are Bus Users, Campaign for Better Transport, Community Rail Network, Community Transport Association, Collaborative Mobility UK, Greener Journeys, Living Streets and Sustrans.
About the Author
This post was written by Robert Jack. Robert is Managing Editor and Publisher of Passenger Transport. He has worked as a journalist, editor and publisher in the passenger transport sector for 18 years. He has played a key role in many transport-related conferences and events.