New report says regulatory system for bus punctuality is 'opaque and dysfunctional'

Bus Punctuality

-    Targets for bus punctuality un-met and un-enforced –

A new report, published today by pteg, calls for major reforms of the way in which bus punctuality is monitored and improved. It finds that:

  • the system is based on one-size fits all punctuality targets that don’t reflect local circumstances and are rarely achieved or enforced
  • the resource for national regulation of bus punctuality is so inadequate that in large swathes of the country there is no enforcement
  • Automatic Vehicle Location data that provides comprehensive punctuality data (and which is part-subsidised by the taxpayer) is kept secret from regulators and the passenger watchdog under gagging clauses that are endorsed in official Government guidance 
  • bus users are kept in the dark about how their services are performing; generally have no idea who the bodies are that are responsible for ensuring buses run on time; and have little confidence that any complaints that they might have about punctuality will be addressed

The report concludes that the current system for ensuring that buses run on time is ‘opaque, dysfunctional and broken.’

Although the report is critical of the current system it recognises that there are challenges in arriving at a better system for improving bus punctuality including resourcing, the ways in which highways are managed, and how fair but effective local punctuality regimes might be established.

The report sets out a series of possible ways forward, including:

  • greater resourcing, reflecting the wide benefits that public spending on buses achieves 
  • tightening up the requirements for local authorities to have processes in place where any changes are being made to bus priority schemes which could make bus punctuality worse, and for effective partnership approaches to tackling bus priority issues
  • more effective use of Automatic Vehicle Location data in the monitoring, improvement and regulation of bus performance
  • moving away from one-size fits all punctuality targets to locally relevant punctuality regimes with stretching but realistic targets

David Brown, Chair of pteg, said:

We think that anyone who reads this report is likely to agree that the way in which bus punctuality is currently overseen is not working well.  With this report we aim to start a debate about how we can arrive at a better system for making more buses arrive on time for passengers. In starting that debate this report is challenging to all sides – local authorities, operator, Government and regulators. However, it’s a debate we need to have if we are going to get a fairer, rational and more effective regime for improving bus punctuality. More punctual and reliable bus services being an objective that all sides agree is key to attracting more passengers to the bus.’

Notes for editors

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