Buses: the smart investment choice for economic growth and employment
22 May 2012 – A new report to be published this September entitled 'Buses and Economic Growth', commissioned by Greener Journeys, a Smart Move partner, and conducted by the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds in the UK , demonstrated to policymakers the benefits of adopting a positive approach to the bus as a key form of transport.
Explaining the central role that buses play in the economy, Tim O’Toole, of First Group, one of the UK's largest bus companies stressed : “The British Government is clear on the importance of transport as a key enabler to move the economy forward, but people don’t realise that buses are the backbone of how people get to work. It’s critical that buses are supported like other modes of transport.”
Buses account for two-thirds of all trips via public transport and the bus industry is a major employer, providing 123,000 jobs in the UK alone and contributing £2.1bn a year to the economy. But is it reasonable to expect Government to invest in buses when there are so many other pressures on the public purse?
“Absolutely,” said Ms Gillian Merron, Chairman of Bus Users UK, “That is the very reason to invest in buses, because you get such a tremendous return. For a relatively low investment, you can make a huge change. A bus network doesn’t need five to seven years to get the project off the ground – they’re ready to roll out capacity immediately to get people to work and to the shops.”
And with the demise of the shopping street seldom far from the headlines, buses can play a key role in reinvigorating town centres. Some 40% of trips to the high street are made by bus and those passengers tend to be good spenders, not constrained by the ticking clock on their parking ticket. Where concerted effort has been made to develop bus travel as a viable alternative to the car, it is invariably a great success.
Sir Brian Souter, Chief Executive of Stagecoach Group, said that the Group’s businesses in the South of England all have young fleets and have had strong passenger growth, creating several hundred new jobs in the process. “There’s really no downside. In places such as Canterbury, Winchester, Cambridge and Oxford, bus use has reduced the number of cars on the road.”
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