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Congestion must be tackled to save bus industry – transport boss

By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent

The commercial bus industry will cease to exist if nothing is done to tackle congestion, the boss of a major public transport operator has claimed.

Go-Ahead chief executive David Brown warned that passengers may “abandon buses because they take too long”.

Traffic jams mean more resources are needed to keep running services at the same frequency, he said.

Mr Brown told the audience at the Bus Summit in central London that five routes in north-east England cost his firm an additional £100,000 each to operate compared with five years ago because of the problem.

The X90 between Oxford and London was removed because of a 50% increase in journey times while in East Anglia frequencies have been reduced and routes cut back, he explained.

“If we can’t tackle congestion … there won’t be a commercial bus market,” Mr Brown said.

“Congestion is what slows journeys down and makes bus travel less attractive. Will we ever get people to transfer from a car stuck in traffic to a bus stuck in traffic?

“It’s quite stark – a 10% reduction in speeds reduces customer numbers by 10%.”

Latest Department for Transport data shows journeys on local A roads in England between 7am and 10am on weekdays in June 2019 were delayed by an average of 55 seconds per mile.

Separate Government figures published in December revealed that bus travel in Britain excluding London has sunk to the lowest point on record amid a 3.3% fares hike.

Nine million fewer journeys were made in 2018/19 compared with the previous 12 months

Mr Brown went on to say that transport emissions cannot be effectively reduced unless traffic jams are cut.

Electric cars “do nothing to address congestion”, he said.

“We need to make fresh, positive arguments, about how we can help tackle air pollution and climate change. Not with ‘clean congestion’ – but by creating cities with high quality mass transit enabling people to live and breathe well.”

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to bring forward a ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by five years to 2035.