Thursday, 5 April 2012

Bus Use Doubles in Kent

Bus use in East Kent has doubled in less than a decade as services have been transformed through a partnership between the region’s main bus operator and local transport authorities, according to figures released today.
Stagecoach figures show that more than 28.6 million passenger trips were made on its services in East Kent in 2011 – up from 14.3 million in 2003.
A massive 14 million extra passengers are now travelling by Stagecoach buses in East Kent as a new generation of travellers catch the bus and more people ditch the car for convenient, good value and greener public transport.
More than 550,000 bus trips are now taken on Stagecoach services in East Kent every week, up from just over 275,000 seven years ago, and the growth is three times higher than that seen on buses in London over the same period.
Nearly 270 jobs have been created by Stagecoach in the last 10 years. Many bus routes, particularly those linking the area’s main towns, run twice as frequently as before. The cost of weekly travel is the same now in real terms as it was in 2003.
Stagecoach investment in the bus network, good value fares, combined with a package of supportive measures by Kent County Council and other local authorities, have been central to local people getting on board the bus.
Statistics collated by Stagecoach - the main bus operator in the five districts of Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Shepway and Thanet - show that:
  • Bus growth in Kent between 2003 and 2011 was more than 100% - compared to 34% in London over the same period1.
  • The scale of the switch to bus travel in East Kent is nearly eight times that in England and around 10 times the rate in Great Britain1.
  • The extra bus passengers on Stagecoach services equates to cutting a total of 8.75million car trips from Kent’s roads over the past seven years2.
  • If these trips had been taken by car, they would have produced in total an extra 290 tonnes of CO2 for every mile travelled.
  • The equivalent queue of traffic if these extra passengers had instead travelled by car would stretch bumper to bumper for more than 23,700 miles – most of the way round the 24,900-mile circumference of the earth.
Bus growth in East Kent has been boosted by a strong partnership between Stagecoach and Kent County Council, as well as continued investment in improving the quality of bus travel.
Stagecoach’s initiatives to get more people back on board the bus include:
  • Introducing simpler, easy-to-understand bus networks, such as the Triangle and the Loop with a strong brand image
  • Doubling the frequency of popular routes
  • Investing in modern low floor vehicles, offering easy access for buggies,  wheelchairs and mobility impaired people
  • Offering value-for-money fares and unlimited weekly travel from just £10.50 (in towns) and £19 (between towns) with further discounts for period tickets on smartcards.
  • Real reductions in some fares, with the cost of all-day travel anywhere in Kent and Sussex lower than it was in 2003.
  • Better travel information at bus stops.
  • Developing improved off-peak and commuter services on the back of growing demand for school travel thanks to Kent County Council’s Freedom scheme.
  • Innovative marketing campaigns, including door to door delivery and telesales, to encourage people to try the bus.
Stagecoach Group Chief Executive Sir Brian Souter said: "This is an incredible public transport success story and Kent’s forward-looking approach is a great example to the rest of the country. It also shows the wider benefits of buses in supporting economic growth, meeting our big environmental challenges, and cutting congestion that is such a wasteful drain on our economy and blight on our local communities.
"In Kent, we have strong partnerships with the County Council and other authorities. This has produced a winning package of attractive and easy-to-use bus networks, long-term investment, good value fares, and effective transport policies. With the same initiatives and support elsewhere in the UK, the prospects for buses are really exciting."
Pro-bus measures introduced by Kent County Council include:
  • Pump-priming investment in bus improvements in Ashford and Canterbury, building on the success of Government-funded schemes in Thanet and Dover.
  • Ground-breaking “Freedom” scheme offering county-wide bus travel for 11 to 16-year-old students for less than £2 per week, which has boosted the economy by relieving chronic peak time congestion.
  • Technology support for smartcards and real time information provision.
  • Making bus stops more accessible for passengers and for buses to improve punctuality
  • “Growth without Gridlock” strategy designed to provide good sustainable transport to avoid congestion.
  • An on-going commitment to support socially necessary tendered bus services
  • Development of the congestion busting Traffic Management Centre that offers particular value to buses.
Bryan Sweetland, Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “This is a really good news story for Kent. Our Quality Bus Partnerships between Kent County Council, the District Councils and Stagecoach in East Kent have directly contributed towards the greatest increase in bus travel seen anywhere in Britain during the past decade.
“Kent County Council is committed to our partnership working with Stagecoach, so that we can ensure continued modal shift from car to bus, less traffic congestion and fewer CO2 emissions.”
East Kent, which has a population of more than 600,000 people, has also seen other improvements. Many commuters using the high-speed rail services to Ashford are buying special PLUSBUS tickets that also include their bus fare.
In Canterbury, bus use has also benefitted from the relocation of Whitefriars parking to a new bus park and ride site and the City Council’s decision to focus educational provision in the city centre.
The Westwood Cross retail centre in Thanet has been developed in a location that ensures integration with the local bus network. In Folkestone, when town centre car parking was reduced, regular commuters benefitted from cheaper bus fares to access the town centre containing the new Bouverie Place shopping centre.
The University of Kent has developed an enlarged site, despite highway constraints, by building on its car parks. This has been achieved by working in partnership with Stagecoach to improve the bus service to the site and banning student parking.