Young people are the future of bus travel

Cllr Liam Robinson, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority: Young people are the future of bus travel

Tomorrow's UK Bus Summit is the premier bus event covering all parts of the UK. Held right at the heart of Westminster to elevate the importance of bus at the centre of local and national decision making, the event allows the opportunity to compare and contrast bus policy throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This year the focus will be on 'The Future of Mobility', why we need a long term bus investment strategy, air quality and, also how to get passengers on board buses.

Cllr Liam Robinson will sit on a paneldiscussing how to get passengers onboard buses. 

To hear more about the above, book your place now to attend tomorow (6th February).

Young people are the future of bus travel so it made absolute sense for us, as part of the Liverpool City Region Bus Alliance – a formal partnership between Merseytravel and the area's two largest bus operators, Arriva and Stagecoach- to look at how we could support and invest in them.

Our focus on young people has seen our city region bucking the trend against a national picture of falling bus use, with young people's journeys up 168% since 2015.

So how did we do it?

It began with political will. As councillors we were hearing stories of how children were missing school at the tail end of the week because their families had no money left for their bus fares.

If anything, this was a stark reminder of how vital bus is in linking people to education and work -something particularly important in a City Region that has one of the lowest rates of car ownership and some of the highest rates of deprivation in the North.
In our city region, as in many other parts of the country, fares for young people only went up to age 15, meaning that those still in education were having to fork out a full adult fare.

In 2014, with operators, we introduced MyTicket for five to 15 year olds which allowed unlimited day travel on any bus across Merseyside for a £2 flat rate. A year later in 2015 this was extended up to 18 years of age.

To date this ticket, now still just £2.20, has seen sales approaching 21 million. While no doubt a key factor in seeing bus passenger numbers rise, MyTicket wasn't introduced in isolation. Bus operators also reduced their fares for young people to half the adult rate and increased eligibility up to and including 18 years old.

Autumn 2018 also saw the fulfilment of the Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram's pledge to introduce an apprentice travel card, which allows 19-24 year olds in training half price bus travel. This was in response to concerns that the cost of travel was proving a barrier for young people wanting to take up training opportunities.

So what next? While we continue to look at what we can do to help all bus users get the best deal possible, not least through what opportunities smart technology can offer us, we're aware that there is still a potential support gap for those young people who straddle the teen and adult world who may not be in education or training- those just starting out in jobs or looking for work. It would be great to look at offering something like a national Young Persons Bus Card, just like happens on rail.

What we do know, unfortunately, is that public budgets are tight and we will continue to work with operators to find creative and innovative solutions to local challenges.

Cllr Liam Robinson is the Transport Portfolio holder for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority