Number of bus journeys each year in UK
The government has announced that bus passengers will have their interests officially championed by a group which has until now dealt exclusively with rail travel.
Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly said train passenger watchdog Passenger Focus would now widen its remit to become the first national English bus passenger ‘champion’.
The decision follows a public consultation on taking forward the measures in the Local Transport Bill to give bus passengers an influential and unified national voice for the first time.
The bill will give local authorities greater powers to improve bus services, making it easier for them to franchise local services and work closely in partnership with bus operators.
Ms Kelly said: ‘Passenger Focus already does a great job representing rail passengers across the country.
‘Now it will also champion the interests of bus users, making sure their voices are heard and influencing the way local bus services operate.’
Buses are essential
She went on: ‘Buses are an essential means of transport for many people, and are increasingly the transport of choice for many others.
‘Two thirds of all public transport journeys are now made by bus, amounting to nearly 5 billion bus journeys every year.
‘This follows the government doubling its investment in buses, which now stands at £2.5 billion, as well as strengthening the powers available to help councils improve local buses.
‘Along with the creation of a national voice for bus passengers, these changes will help bus users everywhere get the service they deserve.’
Passenger Focus delighted
Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said: ‘We are delighted to be given this exciting new opportunity.
‘Extending our role to become the independent consumer watchdog for England’s bus and coach passengers is a logical way of joining up representation.
‘We will now start talking to the industry and other stakeholders to discuss how the new role will work in detail.’
© The Press Association. All rights reserved