Slow bus journeys down to online shopping deliveries and Uber, claims Centro
There have been many attempts over the years to explain a steady decline in the number of bus passengers, but transport chiefs have come up with a new reason – the growth of online shopping.
The trend towards ordering goods on the internet means more delivery vans on the roads and that causes more congestion, which slows down bus journeys according to West Midlands transport delivery body Centro.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the rise of the Uber mobile phone app to order an online taxi service is putting more privately owned vehicles on the roads, making travel by bus even more tedious.
Quoting a report by Professor David Begg, former chair of the Government’s Commission for Integrated Transport, Centro described road congestion as “a disease” which has brought average traffic speeds to below 10 mph in the busiest cities and reduced some bus routes to walking pace.
There is no attempt by Centro, however, to calculate the number of reduced car journeys by families now relying on internet shopping who no longer drive to the nearest supermarket.
Prof Begg predicts that traffic volumes will grow by up to 55 per cent by 2040, and morning and evening rush-hour periods will lengthen as congestion reaches saturation point in cities.
In what appears to be a clear message to the West Midlands metro mayor, who will assume responsibility for transport from 2017, Centro is backing Begg’s call for congestion-busting measures including charging van drivers making deliveries during peak hours, introducing more bus lanes, and encouraging bus companies to provide more up-to-date travel information for passengers.
The mayor will face some difficult choices. The Labour leader of Birmingham city council, John Clancy, has repeatedly ruled out congestion charging or a workplace parking levy to reduce the number of vehicles entering the city centre.
It remains unclear whether the mayor and the West Midlands Combined Authority would be able to impose congestion charging schemes against the wishes of the councils.
The UK’s first Bus Alliance, in the West Midlands, signed last November, will see £150 million being invested over the next five years by in new, cleaner buses, smartcard tickets and road changes to speed up journeys and make buses more reliable.
Even so, according to Centro, congestion is rising and costs the West Midlands over £2 billion a year.
Nationally, journey times are increasing by 10 per cent every ten years – a rate which, if it continues, will cost an estimated 5,000 jobs per year, Centro claims.
Bus journeys across England were down from 5.7 million to 4.1 million last year, according to Department for Transport figures. Passenger numbers have fallen gradually since the 1950s.
Prof Begg’s report, The Impact of Congestion on Bus Passengers, found that if journey times continue to decline at their current rate, passenger numbers will drop by between ten per cent and 14 per cent every ten years, putting the future of the bus sector under threat.
Coventry city councillor John McNicholas, chairman of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority’s delivery committee, added:
Congestion stifles economic growth, pollutes our air and generally lowers the quality of life.
That’s why we are working hard to deliver an attractive and fully integrated transport network that makes it easier than ever for people to leave their cars at home and travel in a greener way.
Prof Begg said:
Traffic congestion is a disease which if left unchecked will destroy the bus sector. If the trend is allowed to continue, then our urban buses will no longer represent a viable mode of transport for the majority of customers.
We have to change travel behaviour. If we don’t try to influence people’s travel choices, it will mean that we all have no choice but to sit in ever increasing traffic jams.
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