Improving bus service provision : a review of current UK planning

The development of bus services is a key element of local sustainable transport strategies. But in many areas of Britain, bus use continues to decline as car use inexorably rises. Those involved in planning and operating bus services thus face a challenge which so far, with a very few exceptions, they have shied away from accepting. So why is this the case, and what can be done to stimulate a renaissance in the bus sector? The purpose of this paper is to review the factors that affect bus use, and at how a geodemographic analysis tool may be used to incorporate these. It also looks at how commercial and social bus services are currently planned and marketed and identifies the inadequacies of these methods. The paper concludes that with the number of skilled bus planners in decline, it is time for the industry to develop more ‘scientific’ methods of planning bus routes and services. The results presented are taken from the first stage of an EPSRC Future of Integrated Transport feasibility study, which aimed to develop a geodemographic analysis-based tool for those involved in planning and operating public transport to help overcome some of the transport problems faced by people living in rural areas.