The very latest TAS survey published this week and authored by the highly respected Chris Cheek, paints a worrying and gloomy picture for the UK Bus Industry, which reports that across the nation in 2012 revenue fell by 6%, even worse it showed that the UK workforce fell by 4%. The reality is that sadly this is no surprise and is indicative of the steady decline in Bus use over the last year since 2011.
The truth is that the last time the bus industry recorded profits was back in 2010/2011. This positive trend had been improving over the previous three years but today’s report shows quite honestly an industry appearing to be in decline in 2012. The report itself entitled Bus Industry Performance 2012 presents the results of its analysis of a total of 118 local UK bus Companies.
Even though cost control was proven to be well under control, the reality is that revenue growth has been well below inflation, and even though operators attempted to keep fare increases well below the National average quite simply less people are using buses. This decline is also across the whole of the UK, except interestingly Wales, what this means is that for whatever reason passengers are voting with their feet and not catching buses as often as they used too.
The two most profitable bus operators were identified as Midland Red South ( which sadly recently was fined over £2 million by the HSE after a fatal accident in Coventry) with 27.8%, and the Busways operation in Tyne and Wear trading as Stagecoach North East with 23%. These handsome percentages are at odds with the worst performing Companies, which ironically included another two Stagecoach operations Islwyn Borough which is part of the Stagecoach South Wales Company with 9.3 %, and East London Bus and Coach with 11.9%. The two worst however in the UK were First Devon and Cornwall on 9.3 % and Glasgow business number 2 at 7.3%.
So what are we to conclude from the results of 2012? Well clearly it is concerning to observe that the trends across the UK do not make good reading. It begs the question about why the public are using buses less than they had been for the previous three years. My guess is that the truth is that congestion is slowly but surely starting to strangle the road networks across the UK s towns and cities. In truth the unchecked access to city centres for the private car is all very well, but there is only so much capacity. Bus services are only as good as their ability to keep to a bus timetable, once passengers lose confidence in the bus to keep to the timetable, especially at peak times, then punters will seek and find alternatives.
Clearly the solution lies in Bus priority and implementing pro Bus measures to tackle congestion and air quality issues that in 2019, are quite rightly under increasing political and public scrutiny. Trends are clearly changing the public are demanding better , cleaner, and greener alternatives and the bus is uniquely placed to cost effectively supply a workable and quality solution to today’s tech savvy and demanding bus users and more importantly car drivers. I fervently hope that post the Brexit debacle, public attention can focus on key aspects of providing the nation with a good, efficient, and good value for money bus network, before it is too late. Watch this space!