1. Existing Problems
Outside city centres, residents are often reliant on transport to access education, employment, services and entertainment. Although the usage of cars is high in most places around the country, public transport provides the vital mobility for a number of vulnerable groups, including:
- The elderly and people with reduced mobility, who are less physically abled to drive;
- People who cannot afford a car;
- Teenagers who are too young to drive; and
- People who prefer not to drive.
Except London and a few major cities and regions, bus services are deregulated, meaning that it is the commercial operators who decide where and when to run bus services, unless funding is provided by the local transport authority. Unfortunately, there has been a trend of decreasing public spending on buses.
Commercial operators are profit-oriented. In light of the lack of funding, bus services serving rural communities have been heavily reduced, since the population density is too low for services to profit. Some places are even said to be “deserted”. The result for this is simple. People simply move house, or switch to other modes and in most cases, cars.
With the current deregulated bus service model and reduced government funding on buses, the current bus network in most places is far from perfect. Public transport users suffer from long waiting time, unreliable service and even unavailability of service. As a result, people from the above-mentioned groups are unable to, independently, travel to their desired destination.
Reports have shown that bus cuts and reduced accessibility means old people are often being stuck at home, since they are less able to drive. Residents are unable sort themselves out independently and cannot assess services once they require. This leads to social isolation, increased loneliness and health issues. With the trend of ageing population, the problem of bus cuts needs to be addressed urgently.
Interestingly, statistics have also shown that the trend of young people to get a driving license is decreasing. It is foreseeable that the demand for public transport will rise when the younger generation grow up. We have to cater for such behavioural change as well.
With the reduced funding from the central government, not much can be done by local transport authorities to reverse the trend. Therefore, the sustainability of new services is vital.
2. Benefits for users
i. Mobility service for the vulnerable groups
Villages, especially holder of free bus passes are able to make use of the bus pass, visit the town and get access to services or employment opportunities independently without needing to own a car or being able to drive. With income generated from other services, ideally more departures are able to be offered compared to other models. Users of community minibus services are able to socialise more and they are able to access services they require, enhancing their well-being.
The excursion service enable residents to enjoy a visit to different locations at weekends with other passengers, instead of being forced to stay at home.
ii. Additional services for other residents
Unlike commercial operators, CMB would be dedicated to solving the mobility issues experienced by residents in rural areas. To address the problems identified, we are willing to explore, trial or pilot new schemes which could be beneficial to residents. Commuters using train station could be offered an extra option rather than being forced to drive.
3. Additional benefits
i. Less traffic, better air
Provision of public transport reduces the number of cars on road. This reduces congestion and pressure on the capacity of the road network. It also help reduces carbon emission and is beneficial to the environment.
ii. Prevention of further traffic growth
For locations or towns with development sites, the new bus service addresses the transport demand of the new population and would reduce the potential increase in car use and traffic in the area.