Grahame Morris MP questioned Graham Vidler, Chief Executive, Confederation of Passenger Transport and Alistair Hands, Commercial Director at Arriva UK Bus about the establishment of an industry-wide forum for discussions between operators, employers and trade unions to agree common standards to give confidence to employees and passengers.

The Easington MP asked, “[would you] agree that an industry-wide forum, similar to that which already exists in the rail industry, would be a good way to ensure that consistent measures are put in place to restore public confidence, but also to ensure that bus workers as well as passengers are protected at work, as part of measures to encourage more passengers to use the existing bus service?”

Mr Vidler replied, “We have worked very closely with unions at both a national and a local level, we’ve worked with central government, we’ve worked with individual local authorities. We, as the trade association for the bus industry, have produced some national guidance for all of our members to use, based on those conversations about how you can mitigate the risks of Covid-19 transmission on buses. That sort of work is very familiar to us, and it’s something that has been valuable to us and, we hope, employees and passengers throughout the pandemic. Moving forward, I think it’s absolutely critical that we continue to work in very close partnership with local authorities, with other local stakeholders including business organisations and employers, and of course with central government. As the trade association for the industry we bring together about 95% of the UK’s buses – we’re very well-placed to do that – and will look to do so.”

Mr Hands added, “we’ve been really grateful for the regular interaction and support we’ve had from Government throughout the crisis. I think the CBT has performed a really important and effective role during that period, as has the co-operation between operators both on a practical level around the way that we’re managing service, but also on operational issues and safety issues. I think we largely have in place what we need, but are absolutely supportive of that type of national approach, and that degree of co-operation has been essential.”

Mr Morris went on to ask Mr Hands and Mr Vidler, “If there was one thing in the national bus strategy that the government could put in to help improve and increase passenger numbers, what would you suggest?”

Mr Hands said, “Looking at it holistically, and putting in place specific targets around modal shift that I think would then galvanise the effort that we really need to get customers onto the bus. As a big part of that, I think pro-bus measures that help us to support punctuality, improve reliability of services and reduce congestion, ultimately would be very important too.”

Mr Vidler said, “I think that a national bus strategy is a really good opportunity to make bus a cross-government policy priority. You’ll probably be familiar with the National Audit Office report on local bus services that came out just before Christmas. It highlighted just how fundamental bus could be to the achievement of objectives across government; DEFRA in terms of clean air, Treasury in terms of promoting access to work and improving educational opportunities, Department for Health and Social Care in terms of improving physical and mental health. The national bus strategy is an opportunity to make sure that in future we think about bus as a contributor to policy priorities across Government, and not just the policy priorities of the Department for Transport.”

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