Buses can do the job
- Published on Thursday, 02 August 2012 15:22
- Written by Meera Rambissoon
In 2010, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith goaded unemployed people in Merthr Tydfil to "get on a bus" to find work. But for many people, getting the bus is the only form of accessing jobs, never mind shops and other vital services.
With 1.01 million young people aged 16-24 unemployed as of February-April 2012, according to the Office of National Statistics, anything which can help rectify this has got to be a good thing. Indeed, new research commissioned by Greener Journeys, which makes the link between buses and economic growth, shows:
- a quarter of bus commuters surveyed have turned down a job because of lack of availability or frequency of a bus service at some point;
- 11% of bus commuters have turned down a job because of lack of availability or frequency of a bus service in the last year; and
- over 50% of businesses surveyed considered bus had a role in recruitment and retention, with a fifth of businesses deeming the bus to be central to their business operations and 43% of regular bus commuters do not have access to a car.
If these statistics aren't compelling enough, business parks such as Cobalt Business Park in the North East have told us how important a role bus services play to them.
"We have 600 bus services coming daily through the park and that connects to over 40 residential destinations," said Lynn Cramman, Travel Co-ordinator for Cobalt Business Park, the UK's largest office park which claims a recruitment catchment of over 1.1 million people and includes businesses such as Orange, Proctor and Gamble and Balfour Beatty.
"I think it would be very difficult to create a business park of this size without having a bus provision – it's part of the package of sustainable transport. A lot of the younger workforce who don't have any current employment close to where they live have to travel our of their area and the only way they can do that is by bus."
"If I didn't have the bus to the business park from Ashington, then I wouldn't have any transport to work at all," said one employee and another:
"It's hard to find your own transport when you're young – especially if it's your first job as you're not going to have any money, you're not going to be able to fund getting a car here or getting a taxi every day, so a bus service is the most direct, best way."
As the Buses & Economic Growth report demonstrates, bus services are not only vital in connecting people to jobs but in supporting the vitality of towns and centres, feeding centres with people embarking on shopping, social and leisure activities to the tune of £21bn for retail and £6.2bn on leisure activities a year.
Although buses play such a pivotal role to the UK's economy, as well as socially and environmentally, they still remain the poor relation of the transport family. Buses need boosting not only by operators providing the services passengers want and via a supportive policy and funding network, but by changing people's hearts and minds over the bus.
Former Transport Minister, Gillian Merron, now chair of Bus Users UK drums home the point. "If we're talking about getting people back to work, the bus is a major player in that as evidenced by places like Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham where a quarter of people who are going to work are using the bus. It's a massive number and it would be a very unwise government that doesn't invest in that in my opinion. If a government wants to put its money where its mouth is, it would do well to put it into buses".