A report from the think tank IPPR, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and HCT Group, has proposed the creation of ‘Total Transport Authorities’, which can enable a whole-network approach designed to meet the ofneeds non-metropolitan areas.

The report, 'Total Transport Authorities: a new deal for town and rural bus services’ highlights how England’s networks of buses provide an essential service. They support those without access to a car, ease congestion on roads, reduce carbon emissions and improve the quality of life for many groups including the elderly, unemployed and low-income workers, people with disabilities and younger people.

Yet despite their importance, bus services (outside London) are stalling due to a ‘vicious cycle’ of falling patronage, rising fares and local government funding cuts.

The report also shows how new regulatory models such as franchising and the growth of alternative business models such as social enterprises, plus technology solutions such as smart ticketing can come together to address these issues. As a consequence, the report proposes the creation of ‘Total Transport Authorities’ (TTAs).
TTAs would:

  • Take on the powers of franchising and enable a whole-network approach, where profitable routes can cover the cost of non-profitable yet socially essential services.
  • Reform and consolidate the public funding spent on buses, where they can secure better integration between community, education, and health transport – ensuring cost effective and more community-responsive services.
  • Take on devolved responsibilities for BSOG, statutory concessionary travel and transport capital expenditure over time
  • Encourage the delivery of bus services by a much wider range of providers, including social enterprises, community investment companies and municipal companies.
  • Enable and encourage innovations such as pilot periods for new routes, volunteer bus schemes, and smart ticketing.

You can download the report here

John Mulligan, Senior Grants Manager at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation which co-supported the research with HCT Group, said, “We want our funding to strengthen and connect communities, in the belief that this will make a real difference to people who might otherwise be marginalised or isolated. Transport is a basic but practical route to revitalising community life. Transport policy, though technical, is therefore vital. We hope this report will help buses better meet the needs of local communities as well as reducing harm to the environment.”

Dai Powell, Chief Executive of HCT Group said “This research is both welcome and timely. It is clear we need to look beyond the current state of decline and the proposal for TTAs can achieve this. A model that uses profit from the commercial to support the social would be a natural home for social enterprises like HCT Group.”

“To make TTAs really work, we need to look beyond the level of funding to its composition, identifying efficiencies in one area and reinvesting in others. For example, the UK government spends £1bn on home-to-school and SEN transport. HCT Group provides travel training to children with special education needs, giving them the skills and confidence to travel independently on public transport. We can do this for a fraction of the cost most local authorities spend on the alternatives. Why not use these savings to fund routes which aren’t commercially viable?”

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