HAVE you caught a bus recently? Perhaps a train? Or maybe got on a bike?
If not, please do give them a try. If just some of our car journeys were instead made by bus, train, WESTlink minibuses, e-scooters or the new WESTbikes then, despite what some would have us believe, it could help deal with the climate emergency, reduce pollution and boost our health to reduce the burden on the NHS, and cut congestion to aid our economy.
Post pandemic, our travel habits have changed. Our trains had a 50-50 commuting to leisure split – now it’s only a third of passengers who are commuters. On buses, most passengers are now back, but they are travelling less often.
Luckily there is no shortage of potential passengers out there, with one in nine regional commutes currently made by public transport.
So if you can, do consider switching. This is the main reason for Birthday Buses.
For those of you who don’t know about Birthday Buses, it’s a simple idea. Throughout the whole month of your birthday, you get unlimited free bus travel. You can apply at www.birthdaybus.co.uk/register.
The whole point of Birthday Buses is to encourage people to try the bus – and then stick with it to bring in more fares to invest in better local transport.
So far, 52% of people who have used Birthday Buses say it has made them more likely to use public transport in the future.
Of course, the proof is really if people keep using buses long term – but scientists tell us that a month is the minimum duration to create lasting behaviour change. So far, the early signs are positive.
Once we’ve got new passengers, that cuts carbon and pollution (helping reduce the shocking 300 premature deaths locally every year from poor air quality), and cuts congestion (which costs our regional economy £300 million a year).
It also brings in vital cash, for buses don’t run on kindness and fresh air. They cost money. Increasingly more money, as fuel costs have soared, and bus driver wages increased.
The only way to have a growing and sustainable bus network in the future is to bring in more fare income.
That’s especially the case for the buses that are subsidised by you, the hard-pressed taxpayer, through your council tax. Every extra passenger helps reduce the pressure to spend taxpayer money on bus subsidies.
We have to try new things. Just throwing taxpayers’ money at subsidising buses forever doesn’t work. You spend it. It runs out. Instead, I’m determined we do things differently here.
Whether it’s Birthday Buses, WESTlink, where people share journeys, scooters, the new WESTbikes, or WESTlocal for innovative transport solutions, I’m determined we do things in a new way in the West. That’s why I’m driving through changes.
So please give our public transport a go, to help create lasting improvements.