Bus travel

I have received answers to my questions on bus services. They reveal that only 2% of the bus fleet is electric on the latest government figures, despite all the active public sector talk of the electric revolution. They also reveal that bus usage remains low, even before the pandemic struck. The latest figures the government has supplied do not chart the fall in use that must have occurred over lockdown.

The fact that overall bus usage outside London was under  11 people per bus prior to covid   tells us that bus services have to be heavily subsidised. London is stated to be under 19 people per bus.  The figures presented divide passenger miles by bus miles.  Buses can carry between 50 and over a hundred passengers depending on whether it is a single or double decker, and what the rules are on standing.  The system entails subsidising the least popular services the most, as clearly the more passengers per bus the more fare revenue and the less need for subsidy. Bus companies are reluctant to cut out little used services, as of course they can argue that they need to offer a relatively frequent timetable to persuade people to use a bus. An outbound traveller who needs to get a return bus may wish to return at unpopular times of the day, so they need to run more near empty buses to keep or attract the overall  custom.

Buses like trains have a relative advantage at  busy times. They are best geared to providing commuter services into and out of job rich areas of towns and cities, and to offer shopping access at busy shopping times. They become very costly providing off peak services for people who may need to get to an evening event or to return at little used times of day or night. In London it should be easier to fill more of the seats on the buses given the density of people along key routs and the difficulty of taking private cars on cramped and inadequate roads.

What should the government and Councils think about how many bus services to subsidise? How should the industry go about constructing more popular timetables in a post pandemic age? It is a pity the government was  not able to supply more up to date figures than the year to March 2020. I presume the pattern has changed a lot since then.


  1. Mark B
    September 14, 2021

    Good morning.

    They also reveal that bus usage remains low . . .

    In my experience (I live in London) bus usage is much the same at peak times but a little down non-peak, but very slightly. Outside of London, I haven’t a clue.

    What should the government and Councils think about how many bus services to subsidise?

    I think letting people who do not operate the service make decisions is a very bad idea. If a service cannot be said to be profitable then perhaps a reduced service would be better, or basically charge more. I am usually against subsidising private business with state money but I accept that for some public transport in rural areas to get to shops, the doctors or to make family visits are necessary, especially for those who cannot drive or own a car.

    1. Cheshire Girl
      September 14, 2021

      I am one of those people. I live in St. Albans, and have to take the bus to get into town. I am an older person.

      I do have a Bus Pass, but would be willing to pay for my journeys if necessary. I appreciate that some people cannot afford this. I take taxis occasionally, but they are expensive.
      When I lived in Cheshire, there was no Bus service in my village at all. My late Husband used to ferry me about.
      I dont have any concrete suggestions, as to what the Government should do, save to say that a Bus service of some kind is a lifeline for many people.

      1. SM
        September 14, 2021

        A reliable bus service is a boon to those who, for financial and physical reasons, cannot drive, and in normal times provides an opportunity to engage with the community, visit friends and deal with minor health issues without needing a helper or carer. If possible (outside of major towns) this should perhaps be dealt with through Council Tax, and perhaps Bus Passes should be cancelled, or at least simply mean fares are reduced by 50% for the elderly.

      2. Lifelogic
        September 14, 2021

        Car share apps could/can often be cheaper, more convenience and better than buses. They (eventually) we will get much cheaper driverless taxis or car hires.

    2. Lifelogic
      September 14, 2021

      People’s impression of bus usage is totally wrong due to sampling errors. This as by definition they tend to catch and this observe the busier buses and in busier part of the route. The emptIer busses are not observed by many. Depot to depot, over the whole of the day occupancy can be Under 5. Furthermore buses often take very long indirect routes (to catch more passengers) and they also block roads with frequent stops or you need connection buses. One bus journey I did Occasionally took an hour on a bus and twenty minutes in a car. Often they are rather less energy efficient per passenger than cars, much slower, less convenient and often do not even run outside peak times. Roll on cheap, driverless On demand, self driving Taxis.

      1. Nig l
        September 14, 2021


      2. Dave Andrews
        September 14, 2021

        So you’re in one of these self-driving taxis and come to a halt behind a parked up car. The road is busy so vehicles are coming along in the opposite direction remorselessly. The taxi’s AI sees the traffic and just waits, never having an opportunity to perform the hazardous overtaking manoeuvre. You’re stuck indefinitely.
        With human drivers, you would poise the taxi to indicate the intention to overtake and at some point a driver in a vehicle on the other side of the road indicates to allow you to pass. You get the nod that only a human driver gives and another human driver would understand.
        Just one example amongst many others where automatic systems fail in real world applications.

        1. dixie
          September 15, 2021

          Why wouldn’t self driving cars cooperate to allow the blocked vehicle to pass? Why wouldn’t the autonomous vehicles communicate centrally and cooperate to allow efficient traffic management and journeys?

      3. Lifelogic
        September 14, 2021

        So they are going to vaccinate health children over 12, with just one jab as a second might be dangerous. All the figures I have seen suggest this will do rather more harm than good. Once again they do not vary the advice for males and females or for people who have already had Covid as they obviously should as they have very different risks.

        This surely is not rational science with a sensible risk reward analysis?

    3. Nig l
      September 14, 2021

      Agree. I guess it is about the ‘pull’ of the city or town, mainly in relation to employment. Guildford, Basingstoke, Reading etc with reasonable usage, next tiers down probably a lot less.

      I can’t believe shopping (large bags walking to and from the stop) or leisure are high demand. Rural areas then it is truly a public service.

      I wonder off peak if smaller nimbler coach/vans maybe reducing distance between stops would work.

      Equally more park and rides. Take traffic out of town centres, precinct them, give roads/pavements over to ‘cafes’. In many squares etc in France there are pavement level fountains led lit at night. A great spectacle and the kids just love running in them. Put cafes/bars nearby, the whole family catered for.

      Alternatively price motorists out completely from the centre of town, like Brighton, eye watering parking charges, obviously there driven by their green agenda.

      But then Local Authorities will bemoan the loss of parking income but then they could save cost by axing traffic wardens.

      And in other news we suddenly read the Treasury are demanding Departments, especially the NHS look at costs/duplication of jobs etc. Allegedly it has been going on for a couple of months but just happened to come out into the public domain, the day before a big vote on the subject. What a coincidence or am I being cynical.

      In any event do they really think we will believe that ‘overlaps’ will be got rid of. No one will go. They will be put in a pool for re allocation paid for out of a different budget to con us into thinking the NHS has ‘saved’ money.

      1. alan jutson
        September 14, 2021

        Nig 1

        But in France in most smaller Rural Towns and certainly villages, parking is free, it encourages people to visit, spend time and money.

        The absolute opposite is true in many UK Towns, your excellent Brighton example is just but one, will never out of choice visit Brighton ever again after the fiasco of trying to park at a sensible cost and without complication a couple of years ago.

    4. MiC
      September 14, 2021

      Why must a public service be profitable?

      The overriding objective should be to provide a public service, surely?

      Isn’t this one of the claimed advantages of brexit, that we can subsidise whatever and however we like?

      I thought that that was always hollow, as the thing preventing it hitherto has been the vehemence with which the Right oppose such notions, and not European Union rules at all.

      1. dixie
        September 15, 2021

        Because profit is a proxy for efficiency and effectiveness. At a time when competition is increasing for dwindling resources it is unacceptably wasteful to run empty/under-subscribed bus services and attention must be paid to intelligently balancing supply to demand. Or find a different approach.
        Blindly providing a service without consideration of waste is no service to the public, it is merely a job club for public sector employees and union officials.

        1. MiC
          September 15, 2021

          Wake up, open your eyes, for pity’s sake.

        2. Peter2
          September 15, 2021

          Great post dixie.

  2. DavidinKent
    September 14, 2021

    It appears there is a surplus of bus drivers experienced in managing heavy vehicles on crowded streets, maybe they could be redeployed to fill the shortage of HGV drivers after a short conversion course which could be specifically tailored to their needs.

    1. Andy
      September 14, 2021

      There is a shortage of bus drivers too as a result of Tory pensioner Brexit.

      In Brexit voting Lincolnshire, for example, they are already cutting bus services as a result.

      In my experience buses are mostly used by old people.

      Consequently, in Brexit voting Lincolnshire for example, voting Leave has left elderly Brexit voters with a shortage of buses. But it’s okay as they knew what they were voting for.

      Wait til you find out about the shortage of rubbish truck drivers.

      1. Sharon
        September 14, 2021

        Oh, Andy! Give it a rest. Every day you attack older people, why?

        And where I live, in a leave voting borough, it is not just elderly people who use buses. The school buses are heaving, but other buses, with a mix of ages, are only ever part full. Mainly, here, because of the type of area people drive to the shops, or walk, or commute to London or other nearby towns for work.
        Even the hoppa buses, which I think are council run, seem fairly empty too.

        1. bigneil - newer comp
          September 14, 2021

          Sharon – Andy doesn’t realise that one day HE will be old as well.

          1. Micky Taking
            September 15, 2021

            unless he needs essential hospital attention – then maybe he won’t grow old.

      2. MiC
        September 14, 2021

        Yes, I think that wheelie bins should only be emptied monthly.

        Food waste and recycling can be picked up weekly, but there’s no excuse for not recycling most of our waste now.

        The penalties for fly-tipping and resources devoted to detection should be increased dramatically too.

        1. Micky Taking
          September 14, 2021

          Well Martin since the same vehicle and same crew collect it all, why stop some of it? We could change the contract, laying of staff for 3 weeks then rehire for one week of course? Great idea.

          1. MiC
            September 15, 2021

            The same vehicles do NOT collect recycling as empty wheelie bins.

            And the bigger issue is what to do with the rubbish, so the less the better.

        2. No Longer Anonymous
          September 14, 2021


          Recycling has been a success in the UK, as has the uptake of energy saving appliances. Largely down to the British people. Also the escapees from French camps to UK shores is largely because of the efforts of the British people regards immigration. These things go unacknowledged. In fact the English, in particular, are much maligned and accused of things they are not guilty of.

        3. Peter2
          September 14, 2021

          Depends on the size of your household.
          One house has just two people.
          Another has six people.

          1. MiC
            September 15, 2021

            Many councils, e.g. Ryedale offer this:

            Households of 7 or more residents may qualify for an additional 140 ltr bin. Households of 5 or 6 residents may qualify for a green 240 ltr wheelie bin. If someone in the household has a medical condition that results in excess waste being produced, they may qualify for an additional 140 ltr wheelie bin.

          2. Peter2
            September 15, 2021

            Nice if you live in Rydale I suppose, but in areas near me the LA has reduced collection frequency and we now see overflowing bins, bags opened and attacked by foxes, a dreadful smell of weeks old rubbish and a big increase in fly tipping and vermin.

      3. Nig l
        September 14, 2021

        Off this topic but very current. The DT has published an article about a new survey on the NHS. It should be mandatory reading for every politician especially Government Ministers who should hang their heads in absolute shame about what they have allowed to happen whilst spouting utter bollocks about a world class service.

        Everything quoted I or my family have experienced. Instead of asking important but frankly footling questions about the current increase, Sir JR you need to hammer away at the issues in this survey.

        1. alan jutson
          September 14, 2021

          Agree suffered too many examples of total incompetence to family members to mention or highlight on here.

        2. Lifelogic
          September 14, 2021

          Indeed it is one of the worse systems around measured by outcomes for such a relatively wealthy nation but such are virtually state monopolies. What is needed is fair competition and real freedom of choice. We need this with education, energy, transport, housing, broadcasting and the dire BBC too.

          Roger Harrabin on the BBC was going on about a survey on how scared of climate alarmist some of our more gullible children and youngsters are many – not wanting children for this reason. But who is responsible for this? Could it be the deluded BBC, Governments, Charities and perhaps one Roger Harrabin (the BBC alarmist in chief & Catz English Grad.) ?

        3. Kenneth
          September 14, 2021

          fwiw My experience of the NHS recently has been of a dreadful lack of performance and inefficiency.

          The way they waste public money is a scandal.

          As always, there are a few heros in the NHS (who are extremely frustrated) surrounded by lethargy.

      4. Ian Wragg
        September 14, 2021

        We have a request stop bus run by stagecoach.
        My mother goes into town twice weekly.
        There is never more than 5 people on it.
        It runs from 8am to 6pm hourly.
        It is subsidised by council tax and a complete waste of money.
        It would be cheaper to give people vouchers for taxis.
        There’s no shortage of bus drivers, just too many empty busses.

        1. Mockbeggar
          September 14, 2021

          A good argument for introducing much smaller buses (between 12 and 20 passengers) in rural areas. B roads in many areas are unsuitable even for standard size single decker vehicles and savings in fuel, of whatever type, would be made.

        2. a-tracy
          September 14, 2021

          Ian, I wonder how much is paid by the council (less the paid for bus tickets) for that bus to run once per hour and how much a six-seater private hire taxi would charge for that run into the town centre once per hour?

      5. Roy Grainger
        September 14, 2021

        I was recently in Germany. They have empty supermarket shelves and a shortage of HGV drivers. I must admit I was surprised, even I was taken in by the Remainiac claptrap being peddled by the media that it was due to Brexit.

        Andy is already well above UK average age and due to his healthy vegan lifestyle will live till he’s 100 – he only keeps on about old people because he thinks it annoys us. What a scamp !

      6. Lester_Cynic
        September 14, 2021


        Is there a single thing which ISN’T the fault of Brexit?

        Presumably pre-Brexit everything was perfect?

        One day, if you’re lucky, you will be old and then what will you do?

        Is there nothing that cheers you up

        1. MiC
          September 15, 2021

          Is there a single service or product which brexit has improved?

          1. a-tracy
            September 16, 2021

            Low paid wages have improved significantly. English wine business is booming (times) and more marketing would aid this further. Job availability in the Midlands is sky-high. The foreign-owned discount chain supermarkets are expanding like crazy and our slovenly old supermarkets are asleep at the wheel thinking loyalty will win out for them, they wiped out local family-owned ‘open all hours’ shops and now we’re stuck with their empty shelves at the co-op, yet the only family post-office and shop nearby is overflowing with stock and picking up business.

            I could go on but follow Jefferson on twitter they are passionate advocates of British Manfacturing for daily good news advances.

            Large companies are investing here and creating more jobs. Bilateral trade deals are coming on a treat and Anne-Marie Trevelyan (who resigned over May’s draft EU withdrawal agreement) is the new International Trade Sec. The UK tops the G20 economic growth rankings. The UK sold twice the number of cars to China in the covid year to March 2021, twice the number that we sold to Germany. Read Robert Kimbell on Twitter if you want more good news, a shame he is not in the Tory party.

          2. MiC
            September 17, 2021

            So, to my actual question, and not to a different one, “No”, then.

      7. JayGee
        September 14, 2021

        Andy, it would help if you could define ‘old’ and ‘elderly’, since they are two words you use frequently. Or do you just mean everyone who is older than you?

      8. BJC
        September 14, 2021

        Sadly, you appear to have a worrying obsession with “old” people, Andy, so perhaps it’s simply that you don’t want to see the many young people who use buses. Clearly, as someone who can state, “In my experience”, you’re one of them?

      9. Fedupsoutherner
        September 14, 2021

        Well unfortunately Andy they can’t all afford to shop with a Tesla. Has anyone told you that you have a very unhealthy fixation with old people? I should get help if I were you.

      10. Mike Wilson
        September 14, 2021

        You must have a very strange mind. It’s Brexit this and Brexit that. It must be very tiring devoting so much energy to slagging off people who voted for the Labour Brexit.

        Working people all over the country are now rejoicing as their wages are going up. As a pensioner, I know a lot of pensioners. I don’t know any that voted to leave the EU. Alert from me. Even my wife, who humoured me that she wanted to leave, finally admitted that she voted to Remain. We’re divorced now. Bit of an overreaction on her part.

        1. Mike Wilson
          September 14, 2021

          Not ‘alert from me’. Apart from me

        2. Micky Taking
          September 15, 2021

          Bet she claimed voting Remain, ‘a woman scorned’. Doubt she did.

      11. No Longer Anonymous
        September 14, 2021


        What the EU brought us was an industry of underpaid drivers working in poor conditions. Prepared to not know when they were going home, prepared to sleep under the desk living on cold pasties, washing with baby wipes, weeing in a bottle and pooing in a bush. For highly skilled and stressful work.

        No wonder British people didn’t want to do the work.

        Of course, you were happy with this at least as much as you were prepared to ignore ‘modern slavery’ which came to us via the EU too.

        1. SM
          September 15, 2021


    2. David Williams
      September 14, 2021

      That is a good idea but conditions for an agency HGV driver, now clobbered by IR35, may not be as attractive as a bus driver working for TFL etc.

  3. alan jutson
    September 14, 2021

    Buses are a real commercial problem, they probably pay their way for a few hours a day in the City and major Towns, but in rural areas are hardly cost effective for the Bus Company at all.
    Comes down to a decision about the provision of services, should they be subsidised and thought of as a Community service or not.
    The answer has now become even more complicated as a growing number of people start to work from home for part of the week.
    Oh what a tangled web we weave, with the law of unintended consequences, by building more and more homes of higher density due to population increase in both rural and urban areas, but then reducing parking facilities and putting up the cost of personal transport.
    One thing is for sure, expensive cycle lanes are not the answer, given many of them have low use, neither is the idea of closing off roads to form low density traffic Zones.
    I have a bus pass so can travel for free “at certain hours” but rarely use it, as I still prefer the car, as it is far more convenient, I feel safer, and am not subject to others behaviour or germs.
    If I lived in a major city (as I did as a child) then a bus pass would certainly be used far, far more.

    1. Andy
      September 14, 2021

      You have a bus pass but you can’t travel ‘free’. Nothing is free. What you mean is that you have a bus pass – based entirely on your age and not on your ability to pay – and hard working tax payers like me pay your fare for you. How about you pay your own fare?

      1. IanT
        September 14, 2021

        Just think about what he said Andy – he has a Bus Pass but rarely uses it (because he has a car). I also have a bus pass and never use it, because I have a car too. Bus Passes are self-regulating – those who cannot drive or afford a car use them (if they can) and those who can drive do so, because it is so much easier.

        So Alan and myself are not costing the tax payer anything for this privilege.

        1. Micky Taking
          September 15, 2021

          and are an excellent form of ID.

      2. Nig l
        September 14, 2021

        Hard working, with all the time spent on ageist and Brexit rants. Prove it.

      3. bigneil - newer comp
        September 14, 2021

        Andy – – Nothing is free. – REALLY??? . . Ask all those who arrive at Dover what they pay here for their accommodation, their food, their heating, their water, their clothing ( look at what they arrive at Dover in – then any photo of them in hotels ), Their healthcare and translaters, etc etc.
        Just because the govt give it a different name, for the same thing, does NOT mean they don’t get it. WE are paying for ALL their bills – and as they keep coming – the cost – TO US – WILL keep going up. Pay £5k to get on a dighy – and that can mean an ENTIRE lifetime of everything – never work, never any cost – only to us.

      4. alan jutson
        September 14, 2021

        No Andy, I actually pay for it in my Council tax, so because I do not use it, I subsidise others who do.

        You are correct it is not free, although cash or payment of any kind does not occur at the point of use.

        1. alan jutson
          September 14, 2021

          Andy, I also pay for the young to be educated, for social care that I d0 not use, and for the fire and Police Service, which I hope I will never need.
          Funnily enough I do not complain about any of this, because someone else, but not you, also paid for my children’s education.
          When younger and working I also paid for my parents and grandparents pensions and health cover at the time as well.

      5. ukretired123
        September 14, 2021

        Andy (hard working tax payers like me???)
        We don’t believe you.

        I along with other teenagers worked 12 hour shifts in summer months in the 1960s but we never complained. We smoked cigarettes to get by. You could only save by doing overtime including weekends 12 x 7.
        I think your idea of work is dreaming about it.

        We have bus passes and certainly do not feel guilty as we served the previous generation you see. No problem so please keep quiet.

      6. miami.mode
        September 14, 2021

        Check out the eligibility for a free bus pass. Blind or partially sighted, profoundly or severely deaf, without speech, have a disability, or have suffered an injury, which has a substantial and long-term effect on your ability to walk, don’t have arms or have long-term loss of the use of both arms or have a learning disability.

        Do you hate everybody?

      7. Roy Grainger
        September 14, 2021

        Hard working ? That made me laugh, if you work so hard how come you sit there posting your comedy gems during the working day ?

        I don’t object to means-testing free travel as long as children and students’ parents get means tested too before their offspring get issued with bus passes – no idea why the children of wealthy people like you should get free or subsidised travel for example.

      8. Cheshire Girl
        September 14, 2021


        I have a Bus Pass. I pay £125 in council tax, and about £350 Income Tax, per month.

        Ive worked a lifetime, and never claimed benefits ( please don’t say the State Pension is a benefit) so I think I more than pay my way.
        Hopefully, your nasty comments will come back to bite you some day.

      9. MWB
        September 14, 2021

        How about the government increase the state pension to something similar to that paid in Spain, Germany, France etc., etc.
        Also, how about you stopping your daily hate messages, which are a source of amusement to me and many others here.

      10. outsider
        September 14, 2021

        Dear Andy, There is no way to make the welfare and benefit systems fully just and equitable between individuals . Even the most detailed means testing creates gross inequalities and perverse incentives between families near the margins. ( Just look at eligibility for free prescriptions for the under 60s.) The fairest way of treating universal benefits is to make them taxable, as the basic state pension is. Sadly, that is the extent of co-ordination between HMRC and the DHSS. Otherwise it would be easy to tax winter fuel allowances automatically and not that much harder to tax the average cost per authority of adult travel concessions. It would also be a better way to handle child benefit than the present system.
        Oddly, having been a “hard-working taxpayer” for more than 40 years, I cannot remember even once feeling resentment at paying for universal benefits for those who could manage without them. But then, we all have different moral instincts and life experiences.

      11. Lifelogic
        September 14, 2021

        I agree also why give the elderly a bus pass rather than the cash equiv.. Then they can choose to spend it on bus fares, food, drink, watching football or dancing lessons as they choose. Far more efficient for them to decided not the state. Better still tax them less in the first place! To cut out collection and distribution costs.

      12. John C.
        September 14, 2021

        Get to work Andy, instead of boring people here. Get your taxes paid. I want some of them in my pocket.

      13. Micky Taking
        September 14, 2021

        I think I speak for most on here. We are so pleased that you willingly contribute to paying for our leisure time jaunts in buses while you work your fingers to the bone…. typing away on here. Sadly almost none of us have the Londoners’ Freedom Pass which lets us travel free on Tube too…..never mind. When Starmer thrashes Boris he’ll make it nationwide free train travel, won’t he?

      14. Peter2
        September 14, 2021

        It is a universal benefit because we are told overall, it is cheaper to give everyone a free pass than to have a system based on income.
        If you think about it andy few wealthy old people actually use their free bus pass.
        We are all in our big comfy cars or using taxis.

        1. SM
          September 15, 2021

          When we are not on cruises, Peter!

  4. The PrangWizard of England
    September 14, 2021

    I live in a village. There is no bus service and even when there was it was rarely used. I travelled on it once but only once. It took I think about 45 minutes to get to the main destination as it had to visit three other villages en route. The road conditions, bumpy and potholey, made the journey very uncomfortable. I got a taxi back. By car the journey is under 15 minutes.

    We don’t need a bus service restored, however powered. I certainly wouldn’t use it if it were. I intend to use my car and just to stick a finger up at authoritarianism I will enjoy using it too much. I reject Planet Fear.

  5. Narrow Shoulders
    September 14, 2021

    It’s a bus SERVICE Sir John. Those 19 people rely on it. I would rather my taxes went on subsiding this than on many of the other things that I am forced to pay for.

    1. a-tracy
      September 14, 2021

      But surely you’d want the buses, the vehicles used, to be energy efficient and low cost to run. It is a shame that dlr tracks to run through towns into the town centre to pick up connecting passengers are so expensive to lay.

    2. Mark B
      September 14, 2021

      I agree. We are expected to provide subsidies to private land owners for putting windmills on their land or to private expensive electric vehicles, but for people who lack means and rely on certain vital services, such as transport, this is put into question.

  6. Oldtimer
    September 14, 2021

    Public passenger road services only have the opportunity to operate profitably where there is high density demand. These are in cities, on intercity routes and on other specific coach services. Battery electric power is inappropriate for heavy vehicles like buses – as it is for trucks, construction equipment and other heavy duty applications because of battery weight and short range. That is why so much effort is devoted to exploring the potential of hydrogen as an alternative fuel. The demonisation of the car will make the situation worse for rural areas and the outer suburbs. New thinking is required to enable local services based on Transit sized vehicles to be developed according to local needs. But this will in turn bring conflict with heavily regulated services such as taxis and buses. A truly free market might produce solutions. Heavily regulated, politically influenced markets are unlikely to do so.

    1. Christine
      September 14, 2021

      As our limited bus service is infrequent it’s not an option for me to use for the few trips I undertake.

      I would give up my car if I had access to one I could borrow.

      I’d like to see electric pool car services like the Boris bikes. These could be run by car hire companies and local garages and offer a service for people living in villages and towns. Too often it’s the cities and devolved countries that get all the subsidies and investment in infrastructure.

  7. Andy
    September 14, 2021

    Transport is an area where government fails. And it fails because transport investment is long term and politicians mostly care about being re-elected in 3 or 4 years. Take HS2. Yes it is expensive and yes it is disruptive whilst it is built. But long term it is the right decision for the country. It isn’t much interest to any of you – frankly you are mostly too old for it to be helpful to you – but your kids, grandkids and great grandkids will still be using it 150 years from now.

    In future transport between cities needs to be high speed. Meanwhile transport within and around cities will rely very heavily on trams, electric buses, e-bikes and e-scooters along with automated electric taxis. We could precipitate this change by banning most cars from our city centres right. Central London, for example, should basically be fully pedestrianised. And when I say fully I mean pretty much everywhere inside the North & South Circular. Obviously provisions would need to be made for deliveries and the disabled but we had people long before we had cars – and it is time to return our cities to people by getting rid of the cars.

    In 50 years outside of big city centres people will rely on automated electric taxis. This technology all already exists it just needs to be improved and legalised. Your car will turn up when you want it, will take you where you want to go and will then drive itself away. A huge advantage of this is that it’ll free up huge amounts of space. Our country is littered with parked cars which spend most of their time sat idle, going nowhere. Imagine empty streets which children can play on again. This is where we will be by 2200. The brief age of the personal automobile and expensive empty rural buses will be over. We just need a forward thinking government to help get us there.

  8. Will in Hampshire
    September 14, 2021

    Universal provision of free bus travel for the over-60s is a bad policy. It often crowds out alternative models that might be tried to serve that market (e.g., flexibly-routed on-demand minibuses – uneconomic for individuals but possibly sustainable for ad hoc groups on popular routes into nearby towns). It can lead to the buses being perceived as the ‘old peoples’ option’ among the young, despite being the quickest/most direct option in some cases, depriving bus operators of new customers. It can end up making the very elderly dependent upon the decisions made by a single operator as to whether or not to operate a service. Better I think to find a different way to subsidise transport options for the elderly, and to free the bus operators to adjust their services to market needs without the distortion.

  9. David Williams
    September 14, 2021

    In Guildford there were not many people on the buses pre-covid because the fares are too high. The minimum fare is £4.50. Most passengers were elderly, presumably with free bus passes.
    Now, most buses have no passengers at all. The government has scared all the passengers away.
    What can be done? Firstly, don’t tell people not to use public transport. Then, make buses free for a period. Like eat out to help out. As there are no passengers anyway, the additional cost would be very small.

  10. Nota#
    September 14, 2021

    From the Daily Telegraph –

    Tory attacks on National Insurance: who said what
    Robert Halfon MP, chairman of the Education select committee
    “I do have huge worries about the impact of raising national insurance. My worry is what [effect] it would have on the lower paid and working people in my constituency in Harlow and across the country.”

    Jake Berry MP, chairman of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs
    “It doesn’t seem fair to me – particularly following this pandemic where so many people have taken great sacrifices to keep people safe, it’s particularly hit the youngest, particularly hit those in work – that we then ask those in work to pay for people to have protection in care.”

    Sir John Major, former Prime Minister
    “I don’t think they [the government] should use national insurance contributions, I think that’s a regressive way of doing it. I would rather do it in a straightforward and honest fashion and put it on taxation.”

    Lord Hammond, former Chancellor of the Exchequer
    “If the Government were to go ahead with the proposed increase in National Insurance contributions, breaking a manifesto commitment in order to underwrite the care costs of older people with homes, I think that would provoke a [significant] backlash. It would cause the Government – the Conservative Party – very significant damage.”

    Marcus Fysh MP, chairman of the Economic Growth Group of Conservative MPs
    “I do not believe it is Conservative to penalise individuals of working age and their employers with higher taxes on their employment when our manifesto promised not to.”

    Sir John Redwood, former Cabinet minister
    “A tax on jobs when you want to promote more and better paid employment is particularly stupid.”

    1. Nota#
      September 14, 2021



      My question is why is any taxpayer funded organisation using taxpayer funding for political purposes by employing WOKE-y managers, Diversity Staff etc. Political signaling of this sort is the Domain of the MP responsibility for awarding the funds. Political so-called ‘on message’ signaling should never be funded anywhere by the taxpayer. If an organisation thinks they have a problem or needs to cover off in that area – that is the Senior Manager not having the right attributes to manage that is at fault, not something to dump on the taxpayer.

  11. Bryan Harris
    September 14, 2021

    It does sound as though those running Bus services do not know how to make best advantage of the areas that they specialise in.
    Simply running routes to the same old destinations, with no idea about how to grow traffic will mean the death of some companies.
    Bus companies need to do what the Railways did at the start of its era, creating demand by being innovative and joining up with other services/suppliers that need to expand, to provide an experience.

    Like many people I will not be using public transport while the irrational use of face masks is still a requirement. Remove that nonsense and passenger numbers will start to grow.

    1. X-Tory
      September 15, 2021

      Face masks are no longer a legal requirement on public transport. Although some operators ask you to wear them this is not legally enforceable. And for those with a backbone and an ounce of gumption the wearing of face masks was never necessary. I can confirm from personal experience that nobody ever said anything if you did not wear one.

  12. Know-Dice
    September 14, 2021

    Electric buses, fine…. But how do you charge them?

    I believe that there is a bus company in Bournemouth or Portsmouth that can/could only charge 50% of their buses overnight due to lack of enough electric current capability to charge all of them.

    That good old “elephant” again…

  13. DOM
    September 14, 2021

    Let me get this straight even with my limited powers of intellectual analysis. Activists of all kinds can break the criminal law, smash up private property, threaten violence, intimidate innocent people (Bristol University), stoke hate and bigotry and escape arrest, censure or State sanction while we, the public, say something out of turn and have the full force of the now Marxist infused laws coming down upon us. And Tory MPs think that’s moral, right and just?

    I suggest someone’s taking the proverbial urine and it’s the two main parties who are now passing legislation not to correct bad behaviour but to crush debate and action on issues that have the capacity to expose what the two main parties have become, utterly abhorrent and acting in a manner that is unprecedented in modern times

    Only the Conservative Woman dares to expose the extremism, hate and intolerance of the fascist left that has infected our civil world

    Get rid of this PM, stop taking us for granted, stop demonising people and exposing them too CRT culture and let’s have a Tory party leader that smashes the Marxists and left wing fascists into the mire before they start to impose real damage

  14. Mary M.
    September 14, 2021

    Good Morning, Sir John.

    Off topic, but I notice that, regarding the vote on the National Insurance rise to take place in the Commons today, you said: ‘I will either abstain or vote against.’

    I have never understood what ‘abstain’ is for, except that it can show a lack of commitment, and/or a way of wasting a vote.

    I respectfully (seriously) ask you to please give a short explanation of the thinking behind ‘abstain’.

    Thank you very much.

    Kind regards,

    Mary M.

    1. Micky Taking
      September 15, 2021

      Abstain is cowardly. It hands decision to others. It is similar to but goes without naming those who don’t vote in Elections. The ones who make up their mind have their way, those who abstain hide from clarity. Was it because of impossibility to choose? or rather to avoid party Whip support of stupidity?

      Reply Abstention is not cowardly. Refusing to vote for something you disagree with against a 3 line whip requirement is not easy for MPs elected to usually support their party

      1. Micky Taking
        September 15, 2021

        But that is exactly the problem the Parties continue with! CALL IT OUT ! Once any fool is chosen to be PM with a majority, then that PM rules including most idiotic decisions – the Electorate sits and fumes, and states opposition. The deaf ear is turned and democracy made a fool of. So would Boris really have turned out you 6 who abstained, when you ought to have said No! Test the water. Demonstrate all is not well and that perhaps defeat at the GE is coming.

  15. Christine
    September 14, 2021

    The bus fare charges across the UK are totally unfair.

    If you’re 60 or over and live in a London borough, you can get free travel, it’s also free if you live in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.

    Live anywhere else and you pay exorbitant fares.

    Why should general taxation be used to subsidise the lucky few?

    The same applies to fares for children. In my area, children over 14 have to pay adult fares even though they have no income, yet if they live in London it’s free.

    Levelling up! What levelling up?

  16. Andy
    September 14, 2021

    Unelected Brexitist bureaucrat Lord Frost is back from his summer holiday and is getting all uppity with the EU again.

    According to unelected Brexitist bureaucrat Lord Frost the Northern Ireland Protocol- negotiated entirely by Boris Johnson and unelected Brexitist bureaucrat Lord Frost – isn’t working.

    Of course the Brexitists haven’t tried to make the lousy deal they negotiated work. They have just spent lots of time moaning about it. Perhaps they should have spent the time actually reading it first – but Brexitist Iain Duncan Smith said they didn’t need to read it as all the Brexitists knew what was in it.

    Clink. That is the sound of the cell doors slamming shut with the Brexitists inside.

    1. Lester_Cynic
      September 15, 2021


      You must have a hide like a Rhinoceros, had I been subjected to the torrent of criticism that you’ve just had I wouldn’t dare post on here again!

  17. Richard1
    September 14, 2021

    Yesterday thousands of peoples’ lives and businesses were disrupted and health and lives put at risk by the action of a few dozen self-righteous layabouts blocking the M25. the police, instead of removing them at the point of a truncheon within a minute, stood there doing nothing for 4 hours.

    There clearly need to be changes in the law to protect the rights of ordinary citizens going about their lawful business, unmolested by attacks and disruption from political extremists. we also need police who will enforce the law rigorously in the interest of all citizens. Perhaps time to consider lateral entry to leadership in the police, possibly from foreign police forces which have yet to become so woke and indulgent of yobs as our own?

    1. Micky Taking
      September 15, 2021

      But the out-numbering Police will zoom up in several cars to caution and cajole 2 ladies going for a walk 2 metres apart in a deserted park.
      They should be reprimanded for such foolish stance – watching obvious breaking of several laws, not for a moment or two – but hours, causing enormous problems for thousands of workers, and losses to business, attendance to health appointments – both NHS staff and those needing investigation of health concerns.
      When are our Police ‘services’ and servants going to do what they are paid for – get some balls you wimps, drag the offenders away.

    2. alan jutson
      September 15, 2021


      Agreed, why about 50 police officers just stood around and watched half a dozen protesters sitting down for hours disrupting the use of main roads, instead of arresting them immediately, is absolutely nonsensical.

      We really have lost the plot, just like the helping illegals to actually enter the Country !

  18. Denis Cooper
    September 14, 2021

    Off topic, why did the French allow the EU to bind them to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement:


    when they clearly have no intention to act in conformity with its terms, and in particular Article 7?


    “EU customs-check delays for British food imports were a “fandango of bureaucracy” because the two sides’ food standards were aligned anyway, Archie Norman, the chairman of British retailer M&S said Monday. “Our fresh sandwiches and ready meals, going to Ireland or France are delayed by about a day – that is not good if you are a sandwich,” he said on LBC radio, adding: “the French, predictably, are draconian”.”

  19. Roy Grainger
    September 14, 2021

    I think the London bus service is good, it is fairly well used at all times of the day as far as I can see and the routes and timings are generally well-planned and managed. The dedicated bus lanes ensure journey times are reasonable though of course this benefit is being eroded by pandering to the cycling lobby by given them permanent dedicated lanes which are usually empty with cyclists continuing their normal practice of cycling on the main roads and pavements.

  20. Lester_Cynic
    September 14, 2021

    In the village in which I live, empty buses are the norm

  21. Mark Thomas
    September 14, 2021

    Sir John,
    In central London bus passenger numbers are up from last year but still down from two years ago. Outside of peak hours most buses don’t have many passengers. The reason for this is the lack of tourists. It used to be the case that boarding a relatively empty bus was unusual on any day of the week and at any time of the year. But without the tourists daytime bus journeys have become much quieter and, dare I say it, pleasanter.

  22. Sakara Gold
    September 14, 2021

    The buses provide an absolutely essential public service to those senior citizens who live in isolated villages. This is why ppl get a bus pass paid for by the council. If it was scrapped the savings would be minimal and there would be no reduction in council tax, any saving would just be absorbed. Stagecoach and Arriva havent got electric buses yet because they have both just taken delivery of new double decker diesels, which represent a big investment for them. They would also need to invest in the charging infrastructure.

    Both companies are profitable tho.

  23. X-Tory
    September 14, 2021

    I see that this appalling government is truly on form today: it’s not even midday and they have already broken three promises, betraying Britain and the British people!

    1. The triple-lock for pensions – a manifesto promise – has been dropped, thereby betraying Britain’s pensioners;
    2. The introduction of checks on imports from the EU has been dropped yet again, thereby betraying British companies and suppliers who continue to face unfair competition from EU competitors; and
    3. The tunnel promised between GB and NI has been dropped, thereby betraying the people and businesses of NI who would have benefitted from the improved connectivity.

    My contempt for Boris Johnson and his government of traitors increases by the day!

  24. Everhopeful
    September 14, 2021

    Buses and trains really only made sense at the point where cars had taken over from horses but cars were too expensive for most.
    They were also helpful when jobs became a trip to the local town or distant city rather than a short bike ride in the village.
    But now the pincer movement of increasing oil prices and electric cars will finish off the relatively recent explosion in car ownership. Not to mention the plan to PULL THE PLUG on car chargers when the grid gets a bit overloaded and of course don’t forget paying by the mile!
    So the upshot will probably be very few private cars (electric or not) but any in use will be incredibly expensive to use and the trains so beloved of WEF ( think Johnson’s desperation for HS2) will become our enforced form of travel.
    If we can obtain the necessary documents that is.

  25. Kenneth
    September 14, 2021

    For years we have had to put up with nearly empty buses polluting our environment.

    IMHO all the government has to do is legislate to allow driver-less cars and let the market solve this problem.

    All you will need to do is summon a car from your phone app and it will turn up within a few minutes.

    Pay a premium and you can have the car to yourself. Pay a lower price and the car will take a round-robin route to pick up and drop off passengers in the most efficient way. It will probably be possible to book a journey where the auto-car connects to a waiting train, aeroplane etc.

    The free market will provide the most efficient route if proper competition is allowed. This will be far better for the environment than near-empty buses and trains.

    Unfortunately the current socialist government/civil service will probably try to control everything and it will never happen.

    We need a proper government before we can get anything useful done.

    1. Kenneth
      September 14, 2021

      Oh, and forgot to add: anyone can use a driver-less car. No licence required. That includes pensioners, children and the disabled.

  26. Nota#
    September 14, 2021

    Sorry Sir John I don’t know much about busses – but

    Wokingham Borough
    @WokinghamBC 2m
    Data shows 40 secondary school pupils tested positive between 30 Aug and 5 Sept, as part of the back-to-school rapid testing programmeFearful faceFace with open mouth and cold sweat

  27. agricola
    September 14, 2021

    Use normal size buses where demand justifies it. Use ten seater van/buses where demand is much lower. In the rural city I visit from time to time the sight of four people on a thirty seater bus is all to frequent. Ticket sales should tell the schedulers what is required and when.
    As to the means of propulsion, hydrogen is the answer, via a cell to produce electricity or direct into a suitable ICE.
    Went to Penrith and back at the weekend. Five hours there for 200 plus miles on a Friday. Roadworks delays caused by the inability of those controlling them to manage three lane travel reductions to two lanes. A thirty year unsolved problem. Three hour return journey on Sunday morning only slowed by the average UK motorist clogging up four lane motorways just like in my UK motoring days they screwed up three lane motorways. If you gave the UK driver a six lane motorway his selfish ineptitude would achieve the same result.

  28. rose
    September 14, 2021

    Our city has no underground, no metro, no tram – only an indifferent bus service. I should be very sorry to see it go. It was almost a taxi service in the first wave but has quickly gone back to full now. I would prefer the buses to be converted to something cleaner and quieter – gas or electricity. LL is right in many of his criticisms but one of the advantages of buses is the independence they give to non drivers, especially old people and children. Old people probably stay fitter, and not a big charge on Andy for much longer, when they go about on buses, than being ferried about in cars. For that reason alone the Chancellor should not axe the bus pass.

  29. a-tracy
    September 14, 2021

    Perhaps the size of the buses needs reviewing with their regular passenger numbers taken into account. Look at operating smaller 8 seaters/6 seat taxi size eco-cars. The bus companies put old, dirty, polluting double-decker buses that used to be used in the big City centres on local rural routes blocking up the local roads because they go down unsuitable narrow roads and take the smaller eco buses off routes that the government subsidised and bought the buses when the routes to the hospital were put on and move the eco buses into the Cities, lots of these runs just got cut when the full subsidies ended.

    If I ran the service on low use routes I would look at electric car/mini-van sharing where you call up or use an app and book your seat and your return journey seat, with recharge points at the wait stops. I would allow local taxi drivers to volunteer for certain routes like an uber service but the bus companies just wouldn’t invest in the technology required they’d expect the government to just stump up all the time and you do. I wonder if uber would rent you access to their car-sharing software?

    At the moment our local bus company doesn’t provide a bus to the busiest business park within a 15-20 min drive from a higher unemployed town centre nearby, even though the main primary town (designated by the Council) has all the main services, cinema, money spent on flowers and parks & investment, our nearest City isn’t even connected at all by regular buses or buses to the nearest train line station. This secondary town is left with poor bus routing including to the once per hour train station with returns on the returning (once per hour) train, they are just not there… there is no joined-up thinking, they expect people to take a one-hour bus journey with lots of walking between stops to extend someone’s working day by two hours or create over long journeys, we don’t get oyster cards and the low-cost travel that London and the nearby regions get at all. A free bus pass often isn’t used yet in London this is worth a lot of money especially for pensioners that are still working.

  30. X-Tory
    September 14, 2021

    As a scientist, whenever I’m faced with a problem I like to go back to basics. In this case that involves asking the questions: ‘What’s the point of buses?’ and ‘how are buses used?’ It strikes me that the answers depend on whether you are talking about the countryside or towns.

    In the countryside, buses are only of value for moving people who cannot drive a car, whether because they are too poor to own one, or have a disability preventing them from doing so and are too poor to afford taxis. So we see that in the countryside buses are a service for the poor. Furthermore, they are used very little, with most only having a handful of passengers. The conclusion is that it would be better to provide the service using small driverless electric cars, which the passenger calls for when required, with people on benefits being allowed two trips a day (ie. a return journey) for free. Other passengers would pay the full cost. This would not only provide a better service (door-to-door and at the time required) but also reduce costs (to government) and pollution.

    In cities, buses are needed to reduce road congestion, and because there are insufficient parking spaces for car users. Bus usage is much higher here. [Incidentally Sir John, I dispute your figures of bus capacity: where I live most buses are the midi version which only hold around 30 passengers]. I therefore see no need to change the current bus provision in towns, but I would make cost savings by eliminating the free passes that are given to children, except for one return trip a day between school and home. Legalising personal electric scooter usage could also see a reduction in bus usage, meaning that it might be possible to *slightly* reduce the frequency of buses.

    Finally, I would like to see a government experiment in a small town providing very cheap (say £100) electric tricycles (British-built, of course) for private purchase, to see what the effect of these would be. Given their increased safety (in terms of stability) and carrying capacity (for shopping), and the ability to park them anywhere for free, I suspect they would be very popular among the elderly and would reduce the need for buses, making cost savings possible there.

  31. rose
    September 14, 2021

    A very sad time for the PM. His mother taught him many valuable lessons but one which is often overlooked, and not remarked on by the media, was to treat everyone the same, no matter where they had come from. This quality is rare and has probably done more than any other to endear him to crowds and the electorate.

    1. Micky Taking
      September 15, 2021

      Who taught him to be a first class bullshitter then? Stanley to blame, I suppose? Or Eton, then?

  32. Fedupsoutherner
    September 14, 2021

    If bus passes are still around by next year then I will be eligible for one but I won’t be bothering as our bus service is dire. It takes nearly an hour to travel 9.5 miles into the next town as it goes around all the villages on the way and there is only one an hour if it actually turns up.

    All the time I can drive this is my preferred way of travel. I can go when I want and return at leisure and go to where I want to go without having to walk miles. Most bus stops do not have any shelters so if it’s raining you get very wet and cold. No thanks. When I go into the city I use the park and ride. That is a brilliant service and just to make Andy happy, it’s not free.

  33. Sea_Warrior
    September 14, 2021

    Good to see you, just now, pushing for proper debate of the government’s social care plans.
    P.S. I can’t remember the last time I used a paid-for bus but, as luck would have it, I found myself planning, yesterday, a ‘run ashore’ that would have caused me to take one. Sadly, I found out that the destination venue has closed – its thriving business having been destroyed by lockdowns. So it looks like I’ll be sticking with car, Tube and train.

  34. Martin
    September 14, 2021

    Another problem with buses is reliability.

    Buses run late or are cancelled, and the poor soul at the bus stop is left waiting and waiting, with little or no compensation.

    If trains run late or are cancelled too often, regulators and sometimes local MPs soon put the pressure on.

    For some reason, trains are more political than buses, even though the latter also rely on state funding – albeit hidden via the OAP bus pass.

  35. paul
    September 14, 2021

    I think in rural areas like norfolk and alike would be better served by the local churches or parish council with mini buses to which any driver can drive, the local vicar can usually drive, housewife’s, whoever and run on LPG fuel not batteries to keep buying cost down, free parking, free road tax, no pollution restriction’s, I mean you don’t want to pay out money and have it banned off the road, you need it to last 20 years or more and serviced every 6 months, I think the people should pay for the fuel and repair part’s to which you get VAT back from the gov and the council pay for labour on the mini bus by sending their own mechanics, costs must be kept down and manufacturer’s can give discounts on the mini buses also the council get back the VAT so maybe 40% to 50% off the price.

  36. acorn
    September 14, 2021

    Bus and Coach vehicle miles have dropped from 3.2 billion vehicle miles (bvm) at the 2010 Election to 2.4 bvm at the end of 2019, thanks to good old Conservative austerity imposed on Local Government services. They have subsequently dropped to 1.6 bvm at the start of 2021, thanks to the Covid. The drop due to the Covid will be an excellent opportunity for further austeritising of public services.

  37. Lindsay McDougall
    September 14, 2021

    What kind of public transport carriages – bus and train – are environmentally friendly? FULL ONES ARE. Yet the PM and our public transport fanatics think that lots of half empty buses and trains charging about are a good idea. It would instead be a good idea if the provision of public transport services was demand responsive, the only problem being that the people in charge of operations hate change and having to reschedule. As things stand, a small car carrying two people is less polluting (in charge of emissions per million person miles) than your average train.

    China has a huge fleet of electric buses and earns a lot of Brownie points as a result. But just think what is going on at their power stations. New power stations burning raw coal are opening at the rate of one a week.

  38. mancunius
    September 14, 2021

    In London these days we see the roads frustratingly filled with largely empty double-deckers trundling at a leisurely pace between one LA housing estate and the next. Empty because few want or need to use them, as the tube lines serve most travel needs far better – particularly those of commuters, who do not have all day to use mainly radial trajectories in and out of the centre. A costly white elephant and GLA vanity project that needs radical slimming.
    On the other hand, in country areas the needs for buses are much more pressing – particularly as parking becomes more difficult and expensive in market towns (more council madness, but unfortunately a reality that has to be faced). There are few areas where cross-subsidy from city to countryside is defensible, but here it is absolutely necessary.

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