Independent watchdog, Transport Focus, has published the results of its autumn 2016 Bus Passenger Survey, with 87% of all passengers in England being satisfied with their local bus service (up 1% from 2015 figures).
The Independent watchdog spoke to approximately 37,000 passengers across 42 areas and operations in England outside of London to assess their overall satisfaction with their local bus service. It also assessed their satisfaction for a wide range of aspects including value for money, the bus stop, waiting for the bus, on the bus, outside the bus and the bus driver. Extensive work was also carried out to understand the views of nearly 10,000 bus passengers in Scotland for the second time.
The survey reveals that passengers are generally content with the service on their local bus but congestion and traffic jams are beginning to impact on their overall satisfaction with their bus journey. More than a quarter of journeys in England were held up by congestion.
David Sidebottom, Director of Transport Focus, said: “Passengers tell us they want a frequent, punctual and reliable service which offers value for money: the ‘core product’. The results show that despite satisfaction levels remaining high, increasing road congestion and the impact of road works is hitting the ability to deliver these basics in some of our towns and major cities.”
While 87% of all passengers in England were satisfied with their local bus service (86% in 2015), congestion is impacting on passenger ratings for punctuality and waiting times in those places. Satisfaction with punctuality ranged from 65% to 84% (averaging 73%) which is down from an average of 75% in 2015.
David continued: “We have seen some excellent initiatives of bus operators and local authorities working together to deal with the challenges facing their areas such as congestion. The West Midlands Bus Alliance and the newer Liverpool City Region Bus Alliance are examples of partnership working that should become easier once the forthcoming Bus Services Act is implemented in England. Such a concerted effort, combined with the survey results, should help achieve one of the aims of the legislation – to improve the passenger experience.”
The survey has also revealed some good news – in some areas satisfaction with value for money is improving. There are indications this may be helped by operators and authorities introducing simple, affordable flat fare deals for younger passengers in places such as Milton Keynes.
Transport Focus say they are due to ask young people aged between 14 and 19 what they need and expect from public transport and bus travel specifically. This new research, expected in the summer, will help to better understand young people’s priorities.
In Scotland, Transport Focus surveyed over 9,000 passengers from the Highlands to Dumfries and Galloway, with overall passenger satisfaction at 90%. Satisfaction with punctuality since the last survey in 2014 has fallen from 86 to 80%, mainly attributable to traffic congestion and roadworks and satisfaction with value for money at 68%. It is hoped that the passenger experience from the survey will assist bus companies and policy-makers in driving forward improvements for bus users.