Ongoing impact of pandemic could see bus use fall by a quarter, says BIM

Bus passenger numbers are set to fall substantially even after the end of the current lockdown, and could be up to 26 per cent lower in the medium term, according to the latest Bus Industry Monitor report published by Passenger Transport Monitor.

The report, The Bus Demand Jigsaw 2020, analyses underlying trends in bus demand over the last decade, by area and region, looking at changes in the market for services in different parts of the country. 

Analysing the risks for each journey purpose for each cause, 

Author Chris Cheek says he expects demand to recover to no more than 55 to 60 per cent of pre-crisis demand during an initial period of social distancing. 

“In the medium term, lifestyle changes and economic issues could keep demand between 18 per cent and 26 per cent below pre-crisis levels,” says Cheek.

“It’s pretty clear that current levels of commercial service provision would not be sustainable, whilst other areas such as London and Northern Ireland already under public sector control would also need ongoing government assistance.”

However, the report is optimistic about the industry’s long term future, as concerns about climate change are expected to lead to more people switching from private to public transport – as set out in the government’s plans to decarbonise transport. The report shows that, on the latest figures, each 1 per cent of car demand switched to bus would increase patronage by over 19 per cent. 

However, Cheek cautions that relying on major modal shift driven by climate change is fraught with difficulty: “We don’t know whether and to what extent any measures taken to drive modal shift will be acceptable to the electorate (and the tabloid press) and therefore deliverable politically.”

The Bus Demand Jigsaw 2020 is available in paperback or PDF format online at £25.