Greener Journeys says that new research by KPMG backs up its assertion that buses are critical to restarting the UK economy in the wake of Covid-19. The group, which is backed by all the major UK bus groups, says that the impact of months of Government urging people to avoid public transport has taken its toll on the economy.
Prior to COVID-19, the bus was the main mode of access to city centres, responsible for a third of city centre expenditure. Bus commuters were generating £64billion in goods and services every year.
The new KPMG research shows that £2billion of investment in buses would generate 425 million additional journeys per year in England outside of London, and each £1 invested would generate £4.48 in wider social, economic and environmental benefits. All local authority areas in England outside of London could expect to see at least a 20 per cent increase in bus patronage, claims the report.
Greener Journeys is calling on government to be more positive in its messaging and encourage the responsible use of public transport.
“The PM may have dropped the “avoid public transport” message, but he is still encouraging people to use alternative means of transport wherever possible. This won’t be enough to restart the economy,” says Claire Haigh, chief executive, Greener Journeys. “The fundamental role of mass transit in facilitating economic activity is as essential today as it ever was.
“We need a green recovery and that will require a massive shift from private transport to public, shared and active travel. The forthcoming national bus strategy must maximise the potential of the bus to tackle pollution, reduce social deprivation and reignite the economy”.
Bus patronage today is at just a third of pre-crisis levels, as more people are choosing to drive instead of taking public transport.
“We risk replacing one health crisis with another,” adds Haigh. “Air pollution linked to road traffic causes 40,000 early deaths a year. Diesel cars and vans produce more than two thirds of NOx emissions from transport. Furthermore, recent studies have demonstrated a direct link between long-term exposure to air pollution and higher infection and death rates from COVID-19.
“The bus is central to tackling air pollution. A modern diesel bus produces fewer NOx emissions overall than a modern diesel car despite being able to carry 20 times more passengers.”