Major new report shows the urban bus is 'exceptional value for the taxpayer'


In the most detailed evaluation yet of the full benefits of the urban bus a major new pteg report shows that investing in the urban bus represents ‘exceptional value for money for the taxpayer’ providing multiple and overlapping economic, transport, social and health benefits.

In PTE areas alone bus networks are estimated to generate over £2.5 billion in economic benefits by providing access to opportunities; reducing pollution and accidents; and improving productivity.

The benefits of investing in the urban bus extend to other road users as by supporting bus services congestion for other road users is reduced.

The report also finds that specific bus funding streams generate significant economic benefits:

  • BSOG generates at least £2.80 of benefits for every £1 of public money spent – over a quarter of these benefits go to other road users due to buses’ role in reducing road congestion.
  • The national concessionary fares scheme generates £1.50 of benefits for every £1 of public money spent – a high return for a social measure.
  • The non-commercial bus services that local authorities support can generate benefits in excess of £3 for every £1 of public money spent. Most of these benefits are to the bus users who depend on these services to access opportunity (like jobs, education and healthcare).

The report also finds that because of the local nature of bus services and operations, much of the bus industry’s turnover (in excess of £5 billion a year) is ploughed back into regional economies through the supply chain, and because the people who work on local bus services live and spend in their local areas.

The report highlights the key role that urban bus services play in tackling social exclusion - from linking jobseekers to jobs, to getting young people into education and training, to providing a way out of social isolation for older people.

Without the bus the report finds that ‘our cities would be more divided, the poorest and the most vulnerable would be more isolated and severed from the opportunities that many take for granted, and so much talent that dynamic and prosperous cities need would go to waste as training, education and jobs would be unreachable for many young people.’

The report also found that:

‘The bus is unique as a tool of social policy in that the social benefits investment in the bus brings also simultaneously bring clear transport benefits – including reductions in congestion for all road users.’

David Brown, Chair of pteg, said:

‘This report suggests that whilst there is a great deal of focus on big transport infrastructure schemes as a way of generating growth, the urban bus also deserves more attention from policy makers. Investing more in the bus could be one of the biggest bargains there is for government in supporting big city economies, in getting the jobless back to work and in addressing some deep rooted, and ultimately costly, social challenges. This report now sits alongside, and complements, the work that Greener Journeys has carried out, and the report we produced last year on the benefits of smaller capital transport schemes like bus priority measures. We believe that the evidence for supporting bus services, and investing in them, is now robust. Working with organisations like Greener Journeys, we will now be taking this case to the Treasury to help inform the Spending Review.’

David Brown added:

‘By setting out the case for investing in the urban bus we are not suggesting that rural bus services don’t also deserve support. Many PTE areas contain substantial rural hinterlands and we know just how important the rural buses we support are for keeping communities connected, for the rural tourism economy, and to tackle major problems of social exclusion in rural areas. However, in this report we concentrate on the specific urban case because a good bus network is so important to urban areas it deserves this detailed analysis of the specific benefits that urban bus services bring.’

Transport Minister, Norman Baker MP, said:

‘I welcome this report. It provides further evidence that investing in local bus services, whether at the local or national level, offers real returns for passengers and taxpayers. The Government’s overriding priority is to deliver economic growth. Our biggest cities have a vital role to play, and this report demonstrates how important the bus is to the local economy. The Government remains committed to supporting the bus, not just in urban areas, which is reflected in our plans for Better Bus Areas, but right across the country.’

Greener Journeys Chief Executive, Claire Haigh, said:

‘This is a very important report, which highlights that investing in the bus delivers exceptional value for money, and that buses are crucial to the wider UK economy. I very much hope that the Treasury will take on board its conclusions. In these challenging times we need to exploit the potential of the bus to help drive economic growth. Buses provide crucial access to labour markets, and support for businesses and local retail economies. More people commute to work by bus than all other forms of public transport combined, and bus commuters generate £64 billion in economic output every year. Buses are also key to re-invigorating our high streets. More people access the high street by bus than by any other mode, and people use the bus to make shopping and leisure trips to a value of £27 billion. Every pound invested in buses is an investment in the future of our communities, our high streets and city centres, our workforce, our young people and our economy.’

Stephen Joseph, Director of Campaign for Better Transport, said:

‘Policy makers overlook the importance of buses in making cities work. This report brings together the evidence that improving and retaining bus networks can help cities function and grow sustainably, and tackle problems such as air pollution, community decline and run-down high streets. With the mini-spending review approaching, we'll be joining with others to make the case for continued funding for buses, and using this report to do it’.


For more information contact Jonathan Bray on 0781 804 1485 / 0113 251 7445

pteg represents the six Passenger Transport Executives serving eleven million people in the largest city regions outside London (Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, West Midlands). Half the bus journeys outside London are in PTE areas.

pteg’s wider professional network is made up of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, Transport for London, Bristol and the West of England, Nottingham City Council and Leicester City Council.