UK Bus Summit 2018 Report


The fourth annual UK Bus Summit was held in London at the QEII Conference Centre, Westminster on 8th February 2018 and once again was supported by the Department for Transport.

This year the focus was on why buses are an integral part of the solution to Clean Air Zones rather than the problem. Local authorities needed to set out their initial plans CAZs by the end of March 2018. The UK Bus Summit was perfectly timed to disseminate best practice and give all stakeholders the opportunity to exchange views as part of the consultation. The inpact of disruptive technology on the bus sector was also discussed.  

Transport and Technology Journalist, David Fowler reports on the all sessions below.

Keynote Speech: 20 councils to share £40m bus retrofit fund

Keynote Address
Session chaired by Prof. David Begg, Chief Executive, Transport Times

Nusrat Ghani MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

20 councils to share £40m bus retrofit fund

In her first formal speech since joining the DfT, new transport minister Nusrat Ghani announced £40m of funding to allow 20 local authorities to retrofit buses with clean technology. Speaking at the UK Bus Summit at London's QEII Centre today, she hailed retrofitting as an economic solution and promised to be a champion for the bus and coach sector.

"I'm a huge advocate for buses," she told delegates. "This industry is indispensable. No other form of transport offers anything like the benefits that you offer."

Buses proved "buses provide a unique answer to most of the local transport challenges that we face," she continued. But "they are often taken for granted. That's something I want to change, with your support. I want to champion bus and coach," she said.

She added: "I want to use the Bus Services Act as a way encouraging authorities and bus companies to make services more attractive, and create a shift away from car use."

A revolution in road transport lay ahead with the introduction of new technologies, new infrastructure, the phasing out of fossil fuels and digital communications. But these provided "an unprecedented opportunity for buses," she said. "Buses and coaches are a part of the solution." Last year the government published plans to tackle traffic pollution and announced a £220m Clean Air Fund in the Budget. Later this year it would unveil its Clean Air Strategy.

Ms Ghani said there was an opportunity to position the bus industry as a leader in environmentally friendly transport and "a catalyst for greener, smarter travel".

There were almost 6,000 low carbon buses in service, including the largest hybrid fleet in Europe of over 3,000 buses, she said. In 2015 Low Emission Bus Scheme helped add another 300 green buses last year, and another £100m was invested in 2016.

"The sooner we get more low emission buses on the road the faster we will reap the benefits," she said. She announced the 20 local authorities which would share £40m as part of the Clean Bus Technology Fund to retrofit buses with low technology to reduce emissions of nitrogen dioxide. Originally the plan was to release £30m now with a further £10m next year, but the quality of the bids was such that the full £40m was being made available now, to fund two-year projects, she said. Older buses would be brought up to meet the minimum standards of clean air zones, particularly in areas exceeding statutory limits.

The winning authorities were: West Yorkshire, Bristol & Bath, Gateshead, Leeds City, Transport for the West Midlands, Leicester City, Oxford City, Coventry, Nottinghamshire, Transport for Greater Manchester, North Tyneside, Nottingham City, Transport for London, Sheffield City, Sefton MBC, Derby, Southampton City, Essex, South Tyneside, and Newcastle City.

For unsuccessful authorities there would be future opportunities to bid for retrofitting via the Clean Air Fund.

She added that she would be focusing on the Bus Services Act in the coming months, and in particular hailed its open data provisions, which would allow software developers to create apps to provide easy access to information on fares, routes and times and make it easier for passengers to use the bus network. The government had set out guidance on implementing the measures in the act last autumn, with a further regulations and guidance to come. She concluded: "The key to success is partnership. Government and bus industry, local authorities and operators working together for the benefit of the passenger, for the benefit of bus operators, and for the benefit of Great Britain."

Session 1: The role of the bus in reducing emissions

Session chaired by Prof. David Begg, Chief Executive, Transport Times

Video address from Sir Peter Hendy CBE, Chair, Network Rail
Claire Haigh, Chief Executive, Greener Journeys
David Brown, Chief Executive, Go-Ahead
Winfried Dölling, Director Retrofit and Aftermarket, Twintec Baumot Group

Greener Journeys chief executive Claire Haigh kicked off session 1 of the UK Bus Summit 2018, held in London yesterday, on the role of the bus in reducing emissions. She welcomed transport minister Nusrat Ghani's enthusiastic support for buses as "wonderful".

Turning to the question of emissions, she said that on air quality, "we really are facing a public health emergency".

Modern pollutants were not visible like the smogs of the 1950s, but were "every bit as lethal".

Transport had a big burden of responsibility for tackling the problem, as the single biggest emitter of NOx.

"The sheer volume of traffic on our roads is not just a drag on the economy but a killer," she said. Cars were the biggest source of transport emissions (40%), followed by vans and HGVs, with buses on 6%.Tackling congestion should be a cornerstone of clean air policy and "should be targeted at the biggest polluters", she said.

Progress in bus technology had outstripped that of cars so that a Euro VI bus was cleaner than a Euro 6 car, even before taking into account the bus's extra carrying capacity. "Clean air zones need to embrace bus travel as an integral part," Ms Haigh argued. But current government guidance requires councils to target buses first, then HGVs, and cars as a last resort – "the exact reverse order".

"The Government has shied away from upsetting the car lobby," she said. "On this occasion the Government must show leadership. Passing responsibility for difficult decisions on to local government will not be sufficient." Clean air zones, she said, must encourage a shift from cars to bus – not just to reduce pollution but to bring about wider health benefits through encouraging active travel.

In the 1950s the Government rose to the challenge and passed the Clean Air Act to tackle smog. "No less is asked of our government today," Ms Haigh concluded.

Go-Ahead chief executive David Brown said that air and road space were both public goods, "but we're not good at sharing road space in a way that's fair".

Regarding cleaner technology, it had advanced in the bus sector, and Go-Ahead had converted its garage at Waterloo to all-electric operation.

But he said: "To see a real breakout of electric buses we need the technology and the supply chain to be on firmer ground."

For electric buses to be more widely introduced there need to be investment in infrastructure, including electrical supply infrastructure, and town planners would need to think differently, he said.

Converting a 100-bus garage to electrical operation was a bigger challenge than charging an electric car at home overnight.

He added that any pollution from transport was made worse by congestion. "Whatever tractive power you use, you get the lowest pollution when congestion is lowest." Buses are able to address both issues: they can reduce congestion and improve air quality.

Euro VI buses were a huge environmental advance, he said. But for electric buses to be widely adopted, there needed to be a reduction in the costs of investing in them.

If clean air policy forced out buses from town centres it would be "a massive own goal", forcing more people to use cars. The focus should be on the most effective use of road space.

"At times the public good outweighs the importance of the ability to use a car or make a delivery in one hour," he said. "With a disciplined approach to managing road space, there is a chance everyone will get what they need."

In her keynote address at the start of the conference transport minister Nusrat Ghani had announced the award of £40m to retrofit older buses with clean technology.

Even the oldest buses can be brought up to modern standards, as demonstrated by a video featuring Sir Peter Hendy, recounting how his 1962 Routemaster bus had successfully been fitted with a Euro VI Cummins engine.

Winfried Doelling, Twintec Baumot Group director of retrofit and aftermarket, argued that retrofitting pre-Euro VI buses with improved emission reduction equipment was "an important part of the solution" to air quality in cities. The Baumot Group specialises in retrofit and aftermarket solutions worldwide. A bus can be retrofitted for about £20,000, a factor of 12 to 15 cheaper than buying a new bus, and potentially, he said, allowing an entire fleet to be converted in the space of a year.

Baumot brings buses from Euro III to Euro V and EEV up to modern standards by replacing the entire exhaust and silencer system with its BNOx selective catalytic reduction system. The result is better than Euro VI standards for particulate matter and NOx reduction. The system is accredited under the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme and meets the requirements of the Millbrook London Transport Bus test cycle.

The system uses the standard AdBlue additive, but is uniquely optimised to operate from low engine temperatures. Applications are developed for specific bus types, Mr Doelling said, and manufactured to the standards of the original equipment.

Tests at Millbrook showed 99.8% reduction in NOx, below London's ultra low emission zone requirements.

Few cars meet the Euro 6 standard for NOx emissions of 80mg/km outside laboratory conditions. Fitted to a Euro V VW Passat 1.6, the BNOx system reduced NOx emissions from over 1,000mg/km to 69mg/km in real-world driving conditions. Emissions from a Euro V ADL Enviro 400 and Enviro 200 were reduced from figures in the thousands to 134 and 64mg/km respectively.

Session 2: The road map to zero emissions

Session chaired by Anthony Smith, Chief Executive, Transport Focus

Gareth Powell, Managing Director - Surface Transport, Transport for London
Andy Eastlake, Managing Director, LowCVP
Giles Fearnley, Managing Director, UK Bus, First Group
Robert Drewery, Commerical Director, Optare

TfL managing director for surface transport Gareth Powell opened the day's second session by stressing the need for political leadership and the need for leaders to set ambitious clean air targets. The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, had done this and it was TfL's job to turn the goals into reality.

The new toxicity charge had been introduced over the congestion charge zone last October, affecting cars and HGVs/buses below the Euro 4 or IV standard respectively. From April next year, this regime will be replaced by the ultra low emission zone (ULEZ), introducing a charge for diesels below Euro 6 or VI in the congestion charge zone, operating 24 hours a day.

Currently consultation is under way on extending the ULEZ to the North and South Circular roads from 2021, and to uprate the minimum standard for heavy vehicles to Euro VI London-wide from 2020.

"There is a two to three year timeframe to move to better outcomes," Mr Powell said.

London's fleet was already one of the cleanest and newest in the UK and for the future only Euro VI hybrids would be added to the fleet. "Euro VI is exceptionally clean," he said.

TfL is "in the middle of a massive retrofit programme" to get all buses to Euro VI standards by 2020. 4,200 buses will be converted in two years in "a great example of partnership" between TfL, retrofitters, operators and buys manufacturers.

Buses operating in areas of worst air quality were being prioritised. On Putney High Street, one of the first two Low Emission Bus Zones, in 2016 there had been 1,248 hours when NOx emissions had been above legal limits. Since introducing retrofitted buses this had been reduced by 98%, through a combination of technology and bus priority measures.

In parallel, TfL is running trials with a significant number of zero emission buses, including hydrogen powered types, in an effort "to pump-prime the technology to show what we can do and to encourage everyone to adopt".

LowCVP managing director Andy Eastlake said that though the Government had published numerous plans for improving air quality and the environment over the last year these had been vague.

However, the Low CVP and its partners and members (including car makers, transport authorities, universities and test organisations) had been developing a strategy and targets to bring about cleaner air, lower energy consumption and a lower carbon footprint.

This had to be pragmatic, on the grounds that the whole vehicle fleet could not be replaced. But it would take in clean vehicles, efficient vehicles and zero tailpipe emission capability, with robust measurement and evidence and dissemination of best practice.

He said: "What you don't want is an array of different standards," and that the Low CVP would like to see common standards for Clean Air Zones in England, Low Emission Zones in Scotland and the ULEZ in London.

He suggested ambitious targets for consideration, which could include supporting widespread introduction of CAZs/LEZs; every new bus in 2020 to be low emissions specification; 10% of buses in 2020 to be fully electric; and every new bus in 2025 to be ultra-low emission spec.

As communities adopted CAZs and LEZs, it was "an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of the clean bus" as well as highlighting other benefits for energy, efficiency, and congestion. Currently the bus sector was best prepared to meet the requirements, it was moving fastest towards zero emissions, and there was funding to support this. But new cars were also improving very fast and closing the gap, so there was "a narrow window to discourage cars from city centres".

First Bus managing director Giles Fearnley told delegates: "It's not just about the bus itself. If we are really going to achieve ambitions for zero emissions isn't it about filling those buses with more and more customers?"

Buses were often characterised as yesterday's transport – "but do not be fooled: we are on the way back. I am confident we have a very strong future."

In Bristol, first was seeing its fifth year of patronage growth, and the same thing was happening in many other areas of operation.

He continued: "We are seeing a revolution in ticketing and how we interact with customers."

Customers were extremely enthusiastic about contactless ticketing. In Aberdeen, eight months after contactless was introduced, 30% of passengers were using it and over 50% of transactions were contactless or via mobile phone. In Cornwall 20-30% were paying by contactless after 10 weeks.

Multioperator tickets were becoming more common. "We need to be open to discussions about ticketing," he said. "No more should we have segregation between operators."

First was "champing at the bit to invest in high priority, high frequency corridors," he said.

For bus operators there must be "no more going through the motions of partnership and no more second class delivery."

Calling on local authorities to give more priority to partnerships, he said "we either deliver together or we deliver nothing". First was keen to invest. He urged local authorities "who don't yet get it" to come on board.

Optare commercial director Robert Drewery looked at the barriers to the wider adoption of electric buses in the fleet. "It's not really a technical challenge but a policy challenge," he said.

Currently there are 250 electric buses in UK service and the fleet had doubled in the last three years, though it still only made up 0.5% of the total. These buses were providing daily service, with availability better than their diesel equivalent.

"We as an industry have to develop a zero emission future if the bus is to have a place," he said. He did not believe that the solution would be a modern trolley bus or hydrogen power: because of advances in battery technology it would be battery electric.

There were two barriers, he added: range and cost. On range he said Optare "had set a target of 200 miles on a single charge to end the debate about range."

Currently, a battery electric bus needed 130% of its stored capacity to cover 200 miles. The 30% gap would be addressed through increased battery energy density, improved energy efficiency and reduced base vehicle weight.

Energy density had increased by 300% in the last five years and the cost per kWh had decreased, and the trend was expected to continue. New battery chemistry such as lithium-sulphur was expected to increase energy density by over 20% by 2020. "I don't see energy density being an issue for electric buses by 2025," he said. "Opportunity charging will not be necessary."

In addition moving from a conventional gearbox/axle drivetrain to hub motors would improve efficiency and increase range by 8-10%. Second generation electric heating systems would yield another 5%, and weight reduction another 4%.

This left cost as the biggest barrier. Currently electric buses carry a 75-100% premium over the cost of a diesel. 75% of the premium is due to the battery cost.

Battery costs per kWh halved between 2010 and 2015 and are predicted to reach €100/kWh by 2025. This reduces the premium to 40%, ignoring driveline savings and cost savings from a lightweight platform. Partnerships with battery providers and battery leasing could reduce costs further.

Mr Drewery said the experience with hybrid buses demonstrated a virtuous circle on cost and development. Operators would not invest in zero emission buses without an incentive, and no demand would slow investment by bus manufacturers. Support is mostly limited to London.

To start the virtuous circle, he argued that the bus industry needed to offer policymakers a lever to secure urban patronage – and it must lobby policymakers to give a commitment to drive the pace of adoption.

Session 3: Why buses are central to city economics

Session chaired by Prof. David Begg, Chief Executive, Transport Times

Cllr Susan Aitken, Leader, Glasgow City Council
Cllr Roger Lawrence, Leader, Wolverhampton City Council
Gary Bartlett, Chief Officer, Highways and Transportation, Leeds City Council
Lilli Matson, Director of Transport Strategy, Transport for London

Glasgow City Council leader Cllr Susan Aitken said "Glasgow sees itself as a European city, with global aspirations." The first change in the city's administration after 40 years from Labour, to the SNP as the largest party, provided "an opportunity for new relationships and a fresh approach in policy areas that have remained a bit static for some time. Transport is definitely one of those areas," she said.

Glasgow had one of the best suburban rail networks in the UK outside London. But it also had areas of poorly connected housing and retail developments with a reliance on bus transport. "Frankly our current bus network isn't up to the mark", she said. The lowest car ownership rates in the UK were combined with falling bus patronage. "The need for a better performing bus network for the city is an issue at the heart of social inclusion economic growth and public health in Glasgow."

Council research provided "clear evidence from communities that a lack of connectivity, particularly a lack of bus connectivity, is limiting employment opportunities, and that is having a direct a negative on individuals, on communities, on wellbeing, on businesses and on the city economy."

In November the independent Glasgow Connectivity Commission was announced, chaired by TT chief executive David Begg, tasked with producing "an evidence-based way forward for transport policy". It would look at the public realm, congestion, pollution and "ideas about how to build a sustainable future for public transport", as well as the long-term future of the car as a transport mode in city centres. "The bus sector is central to that," she said.

Glasgow would have Scotland's' first low emission zone, to be introduced by the end of this year. The city's air quality is among the UK's worst. "Using buses well and having the best possible bus network is central to providing a solution to that," Ms Aitken argued.
She stressed that cleaner buses were not expected to bear the brunt of improving air quality alone: "Private vehicles have to be addressed as well." She added that the city also had a role to play, in taking action on issues such as parking in the city centre, congestion, and the ability for traffic of all kinds to move freely in the city centre they have access to. "The recommendations of the commission will give us the evidence to do that sensibly and with the best impact for the city and its citizens," she said.

An existing quality bus partnership was due for renewal next year and this would be an opportunity for discussion and change, and address issues such as journey times and fares.

Alongside the work on the CAZ, this would put the city "in a strong position" she said. "So I've made connectivity a central theme in the early life of this new administration, because it's central to what we want to achieve for our communities and people, and for inclusive growth that reaches every part of the city."

TfL director of transport strategy Lilli Matson said "We see buses at the heart of a growing London." London was forecast to grow, and TfL was determined this would happen in a sustainable way. The draft mayor's transport strategy had set a target that 80% of travel would be by sustainable modes by 2041.

London was not "in the business of increasing road space or capacity", so it had adopted its Healthy Streets approach, which sets out a number of outcomes including in health, safety and the environment, which all streets should provide, was intended to underpin wider economic benefits. Among priorities was the need to provide enough space for the bus, Ms Matson said.

"What makes buses special is that people use them more than any other form of transport, and passengers come from all walks of life. They offer flexible ticketing and run for 24 hours, seven days a week.

Growth on the network would not be homogeneous, she said. Bus services would be required to serve new developments and development areas in new ways, for example through bus transit schemes, demand responsive services and express services.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, leader of Wolverhampton City Council and transport lead for the West Midlands Combined Authority, said the West Midlands was undergoing a renaissance, with rapidly rising productivity and the most business startups in the UK outside London.
It would need 215,000 new homes by 2030. Birmingham would host the Commonwealth Games in 2022, Coventry was to be UK city of culture the previous year, and preparations were needed for the arrival of HS2.

Making buses clean, safe and fast and getting a grip on air pollution were among the new mayor's transport priorities for 2020.
The pioneering West Midlands Bus Alliance was crucial to the region's bus strategy, he said. Transport challenges included bus speeds falling, congestion and traffic volumes rising and a lack of road space. Between 2,000 and 2,400 deaths were attributable to poor air quality annually. Poor air quality and deprivation were closely correlated. "the poorest communities are paying the price for congestion," he said.

The Swift smartcard was revolutionising public transport payment. It could be used on buses, the metro, and some rail services; it was not just for the conurbation but could be used as far out as Redditch. Payment for park and ride was due to be added.

He stressed the importance of buses to local job markets. Buses accounted for four out of five public transport journeys in the region.
Under the region's low emission bus delivery plan, buses were getting greener – but there was still a decline in bus use running at 1% annually which had to be addressed.

There was a continued need to invest in the region's bus network, with a step-change in investment to support the scale of growth across the region. "There is a strong commitment by ourselves and our partners to deliver a successful outcome," he said.

Buses carry 150 million passengers annually in West Yorkshire, 70 million originating in Leeds, Said Gary Bartlett, Leeds City Council chief officer for Highways and Transportation.

The region's emerging transport strategy stressed economic growth and improved air quality, but also placemaking: the ability to change the city, rather than allowing it to be dominated by the car.

Residents had been consulted in the Leeds Transport Conversation, and had expressed a wish for better access to the transport system and for the city to be an attractive place to live and work. Transport shroud support the growth of the economy, but should have less impact on the environment. Over three-quarters wanted through traffic directed away from the city centre, and that more travel to the city centre should be by public transport. Over 70% said they would use a park and ride if the service was quicker, cheaper and more convenient than parking in the city. Nearly two-thirds of respondents wanted a more cycle and pedestrian friendly city centre.

The Leeds public transport investment programme plans to spend a total of £270m. £173m has been allocated by the DfT, with a commitment to invest £71m in new buses by First Group by 2020. £180m of investment will go into bus transport.

Elland Road park and ride is to be expanded to 1,000 spaces. The recently opened Temple Green park and ride is already at 75% capacity.

There are plans to transform the bus network using bus priority corridors. Targets of doubling bus patronage and introducing a zero emission bus fleet in the next 10 years have been adopted. A clean air zone is to be introduced by 2020.

A trial of the Connecting Communities initiative is to start this year, not just connecting to the city centre but also aiming to provide orbital links.

He said the aims of the strategy were "very demanding". But he agreed with other speakers that "buses are at the heart of these big conurbations, and we need to get this right. They are the future."

Session 4: What impact will disruptive technology have on the bus sector?

Session chaired by: Anthony Smith, Chief Executive, Transport Focus

Kevin O'Connor, Managing Director, UK Bus, Arriva
Dr Jillian Anable, Professor of Transport and Energy, University of Leeds
Paul Buchanan, Partner, Volterra
Simon Craven, Special Advisor, Go-Ahead Group
Pete Ferguson, CEO, Prospective

The final session addressed the topic of the impact of technology from autonomous vehicles to services such as Uber on the bus industry.

Arriva UK Bus managing director Kevin O'Connor said a range of new technologies such as Uber. Zipcar, Moovit and Citymapper were changing the expectations of the user. The future was difficult to predict. Would autonomous vehicles be a mode or a product? Driverless cars, he said, have very similar attributes to demand responsive transport services but without the driver.

But undoubtedly autonomous vehicles and on demand services were among disruptors. An Arriva survey into customer expectations had found that people wanted "Uberfication" of bus services –not necessarily on-demand services but dynamic, flexible and with the ability to pay by phone.
Bus companies needed a business digital strategy. "Customers expect up to date technology," he said.

On-demand services could be an opportunity for the sector, he argued. Last year Arriva had introduced the demand-responsive Arriva Click in the Sittingbourne area in Kent using luxury minibuses. It had learned "how dynamic you can be with a new service", including changing the way the service was priced and marketed. To use, customers download an app, buy journey credit and select a pick-up and drop-off point. The app offers a price and ETA.

Between March and April there had been 15% week-on-week growth and 12% of the population used the service – high penetration in a small area not used to using Uber, said Mr O'Connor. There had been some abstraction from buses, but 52% of passengers had switched from cars or taxis.

Mr O'Connor predicted that DRT would be important in three markets: in urban areas, in areas of low population density, and for the public sector, providing socially necessary services more efficiently.

Dr Jillian Anable, professor of transport and energy at the University of Leeds Institute for Transport Studies, said that the widespread view in the media was that "revolutionary" shared services and autonomous vehicles would sweep away "old-fashioned" public transport.

In fact since the early 1990s, "each cohort of young people has owned and used cars less than the preceding one". 25-34 year olds use public transport more to commute.

Some factors in this could be lower full time employment rates, the increase in low wage, uncontracted jobs, increases in housing expenditure and a decline in disposable income. Being able to remain connected on the move might also be a factor.

More young people use the bus than any other age group, but they are the least satisfied. They want "real" real-time information, the ability to compare on price, smart ticketing, wi-fi, phone charging points and real-time mapping on the bus.

"Shared mobility" was a phrase used to include car sharing and ride sharing but not public transport. In fact shared car travel has been declining for 30 years. The average occupancy of a car in the UK is 1.55,including the driver. For Uber the figure is thought to be the same as taxis in general at 1.66 including the driver. On demand services might result in induced demand and greater congestion.

Dr Anable asked: "Do we understand what smart mobility will do to our cities, our places, our societies? We don't do transport governance well now when it is relatively simple." Given the pace of innovation, society was at a critical and probably short-lived juncture for policymakers to introduce new regulatory mechanisms to bring about desired outcomes.

The choice was between smart policies to make smart mobility a positive transformation, or a risk of going "in a direction we don't want to go" in which automobility continued to prevail.

"Disruptive technology is not new," said Paul Buchanan, a partner in consultant Volterra. Rail took 10-15 years from its introduction to being the largest mode of transport. The car took 25 years to overtake rail. Nothing has so far overtaken the car. He said he preferred the phrase "opportunity-creating technology".

Transport tends not to work as it is expected to, he added. In recent years the time people spend travelling and the number of trips they make has stayed roughly constant. Instead of using faster transport to save time, people use it to travel from further away.

Considering technology trends, he said automation would make taxis a lot cheaper, buses slightly cheaper and cars perhaps more expensive. Sharing would have an impact on bus demand, creating a new market. AVs could have a significant effect on safety and the costs arising from road accidents, given that 94% of accidents were due to driver error. They could also increase road capacity – predictions ranged from 50 to 200% or even as much as 500%.

Mr Buchanan predicted that the impact of autonomous vehicles on buses depended critically on location, with the greatest threat in rural areas, where driverless shared taxis were likely to outperform rural buses. "It is difficult to see a long-term role for buses [in those areas]," he said.
In big cities the capacity advantage of buses would be important; buses would play the main public transport role in most UK cities.

Towns and small cities were likely to be where the competition between buses and AVs was fiercest. Here, the advantage between modes would depend critically on the level of priority given to buses and extent of charging on cars and public hire vehicles.

If AVs were to work for all transport, authorities would need to price use of the roads. Human drivers would have to be banned (to achieve the theoretical gains in efficiency). Authorities would have to manage road and parking space allocation – using the increase in capacity to reallocate space; and find ways to protect and prioritise buses, pedestrians and cyclists would need to be devised.

Go-Ahead group special adviser Simon Craven looked at how consumer psychology was affecting the bus sector. He said a large proportion of consumers spend over ten hours a week online – in a rapidly evolving environment. Devices such as smartphones typically became twice as good every three years without costing any more money. This changed expectations more generally. Meanwhile, he said. "The bus journey hasn't changed for decades. People feel instinctively that it's old-fashioned."

Internet services make a personalised offer and then fulfil it. They give a sense of control (which may be an illusion) and a sense of community. He compared this with sharing space on public transport.

At the same time technology companies were "using technology sector money as a weapon". "Uber's biggest weapon isn't its app – it's having investors prepared to burn millions of dollars, running up sustained losses to become a global mega-corporation," he said. He added: "But sooner or later every operator has to generate enough income to meet a realistic cost of capital and pay their workforce enough to live on."

"So we have culture shock. Technology and mobility is changing faster than at any time since the train overtook the horse," he said.
For decades, technological progress in public transport had been incremental. Now there was not a revolution but discontinuities, with fundamental changes in technology and in techniques used to communicate with consumers, which demanded "a real change of mindset".

Pete Ferguson, chief executive of Prospective, looked at the question of how data science was changing transport. Prospective is a company formed by data scientists, software engineers and transport modellers from UCL, Cambridge and the Alan Turing Institute, which has developed a cloud platform for urban analytics to help organisations gain insights from their data.

"There has been an explosion of real-time data on citizens' travel behaviour, preferences, activity demands and conditions on the transport network," he said. It is possible to see for the first time where people enter and leave the system, where they interchange and so on. The bus in particular has the ability to build up "a lot of data on what people are doing". "Effective use of data by traditional transport operators can open up new opportunities," he said, improving service, reducing operating costs and increasing revenue. Data could allow operators to be more responsive, integrated and sustainable.

Data now provides the ability to see current network performance in detail and to understand what is driving performance, to predict what will or could be and the implications for patronage.

It can allow operations to be planned as part of a single integrated network and to test the effect of changes in operations, taking into account interdependency with the rest of the city.

From a sustainability viewpoint it allows transport changes to be assessed against a range of criteria that consider the objectives of a range of stakeholders.

Operators should harness this technology, he said, by contextualising their data; considering the wider network; predicting performance; making practical changes to schedules and reconfiguring routes and resources; and collaborating.

"What kind of service could you come up with that hasn't been thought of before?" he asked. "Maybe it's a way of using public tranpsort to move freight as much as people. Maybe it's a way of combining on-demand transportation with traditional forms of transportation. It's this kind of point, about how you utilise the resources you already have and really sweat them, that's a positive message I would like to leave you with."



  • Prof. David Begg (Session Chair)

    Chief Executive
    Transport Times
  • Claire Haigh (Session Chair)

    Chief Executive
    Greener Journeys
  • Nusrat Ghani MP

    Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Transport
  • Laura Murdoch

    Director for Bus, Accessibility and Active Travel
    Transport Scotland
  • Ciarán de Búrca B.E., F.I.E.I.

    Chartered Engineer Director, Transport Projects & Business Services Division
    Department for Infrastructure, Northern Ireland
  • David Brown

    Chief Executive
  • Cllr Roger Lawrence

    Wolverhampton City Council
  • Gareth Powell

    Managing Director Surface Transport
    Transport for London
  • Tom Stables

    Managing Director UK and Germany
    National Express
  • Anthony Smith (Session Chair)

    Chief Executive
    Transport Focus
  • Cllr Liam Robinson

  • Iain Jago

    Managing Director (Interim)– UK Bus
  • Giles Fearnley

    Managing Director – UK Bus
  • Pete Ferguson

  • Pete Bond

    Director of Integrated Network Services
    Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) / West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA)
  • Cllr Waseem Zaffar

    Cabinet Member – Transport & Environment
  • Cllr Anna Richardson

    City Convener for Sustainability & Carbon Reduction
    Glasgow City Council
  • Peter Williams

    Director of Certification & Compliance
    Cummins Europe
  • Robert Drewery

    Commercial Director

Transport Times brings together top policy makers with senior political and delivery leaders to generate lively and relevant debates

Colin Matthews

Chairman, Highways England