Council to blame for declining bus use in Peterborough - reader letter

The shocking figures for reduced bus use (PT, 19 December) can be laid principally at the door of Peterborough City Council, though not for the reasons suggested by Cllr Nick Sandford.

Friday, 27th December 2019, 5:00 am

Nick is right that the statement by Peter Hiller that he sees Peterborough as ‘a car city’ belies the attitude of the council to bus travel, which I believe sees it as a necessary evil rather than a core transport service. And that attitude has been reflected in the failure of successive council leaders to address congestion.

The quality of service provided by Stagecoach may not be the best (and I am mystified that it has no services using the parkways to connect the townships), but this is not the causative factor in the decline. The main problem with bus services in many cities is congestion, which makes services unreliable and locks them into a spiral of decline.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A Stagecoach bus in Peterborough

The less reliable bus services are, the fewer people use them, leading to more car use, and more car use creates even less reliable bus services. The loss of passengers forces fares up as the operator strives to cover the huge fixed costs of buses at £150,000+ each, forcing passenger numbers down further, or creating need for the bus operator to cut costs, which can reflect in falling quality.

The factor which Cllr Nick Sandford overlooks is congestion, and until PCC bites the bullet and provides adequate bus laning and bus priority at peak times, it is locked into further decline. We know why bus laning has not been created; because, in the short term, it exacerbates car congestion and, as each car contains a voter, the elected officials fear a backlash. They seem to have lost sight of their primary duty to act for the public good, and have succumbed to appeasement of car drivers.

Make no mistake, the failure to address this problem is an attack on the most vulnerable people in our community; the elderly, the young, the low-waged and disabled people who have no choice but to use the buses. It is they who suffer most from rising fares and being unable to get to work on time.

The plain fact is that cities have a fixed amount of road space and are using what they have inefficiently. A double-deck bus carrying 70 people occupies the same space as three cars carrying four or five people. You don’t have to be a mathematician to work out that buses use road space at least 10 times more efficiently, and if there were any democracy in transport, those 70 on the bus should have the priority.

Peterborough’s city planning has been woeful, establishing out-of-town retail which encourages car use, and separating workplace ‘ghettos’ far from housing, guaranteeing more commuter journeys by car.

The council has the tools to improve public transport in the city, including dual carriageways into the city which could have peak-time bus laning, as is seen in many UK and European cities. It could create a Clean Air Zone and congestion charges, as is happening right now across many UK cities.

Mark Williams

Group Editor

Bus & Coach Buyer