For those solid and staid souls who have followed my ramblings since 2009 when I started this whole blog malarkey. You may have detected one theme throughout, namely my regular commentaries on the future of the UK Bus industry. If truth be told it has fluctuated quite a bit over the course of the last ten years or so. On reflection I think that most of the blogs have been expressing concern about the decline of the Industry. Year on year falling numbers of passengers across the UK. The virtual obliteration of subsidised bus services due to Local Authority austerity budget cuts care of Dave and George. Coupled with the dual evils of ever increasing congestion, in our towns and Cities, and the ever worsening toxic air quality, have in truth made for some depressing reading.
But then, almost out of the blue in the last eighteen months or so we have been offered some hope, some salvation, from quite honestly very unlikely sources. Namely the major political parties both blue and red. One of the biggest problems for me has been the political indifference, indeed scorn shown by the Tories and Labour over the last few years.The bus was seen as the travel of last choice although ironically it is by far and away the biggest supplier of public transport for the people of this nation. Part of the problem has been the simple fact that unlike virtually every other form of transport (car, logistics, freight, walking, cycling). You name it and there is a national strategy except for the bus. As a result there has been no continuity at all, yes there are, I hear you yell, some isolated examples of great partnerships between enlightened local authorities and quality bus Companies that have reversed the trend of passenger decline year on year but in truth I can count them on less than two hands.
The bus therefore has struggled on as a lost voice not being heard in the wilderness while things slide from bad to worse. Large tracts of rural England stripped of virtually any bus service at all. And by so doing throwing scores of thousands of socially vulnerable people into loneliness and isolation. So, as my depression mounted very slowly I began quite recently to see some little green shoots of hope. Political attitudes seemed to be warming to the bus as a solution, rather than the age old easy argument that it was in fact the problem. In 2018 momentum gathered force as the Industry itself seemed to gather itself together with both CILT and CPT aligning with the operators like never before to share the collective mantra that we are the solution. And then out of the blue both party conferences spoke about the new dawn of the bus with proper infrastructure investment, new money for cleaner vehicles, and new partnership and franchise models being openly promoted. Talk as they say is cheap and these intentions are yet to become realities but hand on heart I do believe that the tide has turned and we now need to work together to make these aspirations the future realities.