Bus services should be designed for young people, says watchdog

image copyrightTransport Focus

Bus tickets need to be cheaper and easier to buy using contactless and smart phones to attract young people, according to the UK transport watchdog.

Despite being the biggest users of buses 16-18 year-olds are also the least satisfied, Transport Focus found.

The watchdog also recommended companies should install wi-fi and USB charging points on board, to encourage younger people to travel on buses.

Bus companies said they were investing in services young people expect.

Graham Vidler, chief executive of CPT UK, the trade association which represents bus and coach operators, said the industry recognised the importance of meeting the expectations of younger travellers.

Onboard facilities including contactless and mobile ticketing, wi-fi, USB charging points and leather seating were now "commonplace" on many services, he added.

Transport Focus director David Sidebottom agreed more bus operators and local authorities were pursuing initiatives that encouraged young people to catch the bus.

But he added that young people didn't feel services were designed for them.

"Young people want using the bus to be as simple and intuitive as ordering pizza. Bus operators and local authorities must seize the opportunity to cater for their customers of the future."

In its report Making Bus a Better Choice For Young People Transport Focus recommends bus companies should introduce:

  • Smart fares - cheaper fares for 16 to 18-year-olds that are easy to buy and understand
  • A nationwide simple-to-use smartphone bus app, providing information and ticketing
  • Wi-fi and USB points at every seat

Transport Focus gave the example of a flat fare of £2.20 for unlimited travel in and around Liverpool, which it said had led to a significant rise in the number of under 18-year-olds using buses.

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CPT UK's Mr Vidler welcomed the report's recommendations and said the latest satisfaction statistics "clearly demonstrate that the industry is moving in the right direction".

However, he added there was "always room for improvement".

The organisation looked forward to "continuing to work closely with its members, central and local government to further improve the experience of all bus users", he said.

Buses minister Nusrat Ghani said the Transport Focus research was "vital" in showing how to encourage young people to continue to use buses in the future. "Both councils and bus companies should follow this best practice," she said.

"We're also funding a new open data platform so companies can develop apps to help passengers find out where their bus is, how long it will take, and how much it will cost, giving them more confidence to take the bus," Ms Ghani added.

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