Project details

Full project title: Re-imagining the bus: Road public transport services in a world of falling subsidies and more complex demand

Sponsor: UWE: SPUR 3 award - Grants for early career researchers 2011/12

Centre for Transport and Society (CTS) researcher: Ian Shergold

Academic mentor: Professor Graham Parkhurst

Project partners: Passenger Focus, Forum for the Future

Start date: August 2011

Finish date: July 2012

Project summary

The most significant reduction in public transport capacity in 50 years has begun, and will take effect over the next few years. Bus services are facing unprecedented cuts in subsidies for fuel and fares at a time in which fuel and other costs are rising. Already, very significant service cuts are emerging; one shire has cut subsidy for 'supported services' completely. As a consequence, there is the very real potential that reductions in subsidised public transport could put a range of vulnerable groups in society (and their communities) at risk of being excluded or marginalised, whilst also undermining policy for more sustainable mobility across all social groups.

Paradoxically, at the same time, the ageing of the population combined with reduced affordability of car ownership are creating opportunities for road public transport. However, the current inflexible 'big-box' bus model emerges as a poor technical solution for delivering mobility in a financially and environmentally sustainable way: buses need to capture more of the attributes of taxis to remain viable and competitive into the future.

This project is responding to these questions through a one-year, UWE Bristol-funded research exercise - part of a program to foster and develop early-career researchers. It takes the form of a literature review following a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) approach. Both UK and international evidence is being explored, and attempts will be made to uncover emerging trends in provision.

Results will provide 'potential' benefit for practitioners if their knowledge about novel public transport options is enhanced and 'actual' benefit if trials were to emerge as a result. In addition, there may be particular opportunities to influence national policy due to a policy-practice vacuum now existing following withdrawal of the state from existing solutions.

Passenger Focus*, and Forum for the Future** are providing input to the project in respect of the content and direction of research, and will act as a sounding board for the findings in due course.

*Passenger Focus is an independent public body set up by the Government to protect the interests of (public transport) passengers.

** Forum for the Future is a non-profit organisation working globally with business and government to create a sustainable future.