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Monday, November 15, 1999 Published at 18:36 GMT


Prescott promises better buses

Bus use has risen for the first time in years

The government has promised to rid buses of their "second rate" image by providing a clean, comfortable, modern and efficient fleet within two years.

The BBC's Simon Montague: "Bus use has declined by three quarters over the past fifty years"
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced the government's targets for bus services following a bus summit meeting with operators and passenger groups in London.

Mr Prescott said companies would be obliged to cut cancellations to just 0.5% of services by autumn 2001 - the equivalent of two disrupted journeys a year for passengers who make daily return trips.

Operators failing to meet the target will be "named and shamed", he said.

[ image: John Prescott intends setting targets for operators]
John Prescott intends setting targets for operators
By the same date, the average age of buses in each fleet will have to be cut to eight years, he said.

Mr Prescott said: "Buses offer the cheapest, most comprehensive and accessible form of transport in the UK, but they too often fall short of passenger expectations.

"It is time to turn our backs on an era characterised by poor marketing, poor quality buses, confusing networks, inflexible ticketing and constant timetable changes."

Mr Prescott also announced further investment in London's bus services, which, while privatised, are the only ones still regulated by a central body - London Transport.

Services outside of the capital were deregulated in the mid-1980s.

[ image: Heathrow spur bus lane is not popular with some]
Heathrow spur bus lane is not popular with some
The Government is launching its drive to get more people to travel by bus, in a bid to cut road congestion.

However, Conservative Transport Spokesman Bernard Jenkin dismissed the bus summit as a publicity stunt that failed to address the real issues.

The transport summit followed the Government's publication earlier this year of a "daughter" document to its transport White Paper.

This document was entitled From Workhorse to Thoroughbred: A Better Role for Bus Travel.

Among policies explored were:

  • A new framework for local authority influence over buses
  • A tightening up of the deregulated regime that exists for all buses outside London
  • Better bus information and more joint ticketing
  • Minimum standards for concessionary fares

    Last year saw the first increase in passenger numbers outside the capital for more than 40 years.

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