Buses could help cut youth unemployment and deliver a £1.4bn boost to the UK economy under proposals contained in a new report published by Greener Journeys, the sustainable travel campaign group supported by the UK’s major transport groups. Entitled ‘Bus 2020: A Manifesto for the next Parliament’, the document urges the Government to invest in a package of measures including a concessionary bus travel scheme for apprentices, tax incentives for buying bus season tickets and support for the expansion of bus priority measures. It cites research that shows the £150m investment cost of the three measures would be paid for nine times over through the resulting economic benefits, with a further £110m boost in extra jobs and wider labour market benefits.
The call for greater focus on maximising the potential of buses comes as latest figures show youth unemployment remains at more than 20%, with 1.71m 18 to 24 year olds economically inactive. New Greener Journeys research, conducted by the University of Leeds, reveals that young people are more reliant than any other demographic group on bus services. It suggests that for the vast majority of unemployed 18 to 24 years olds, the bus is the only form of transport available and they depend on it. The study showed that 82% of unemployed people in that age bracket have no access to a car and strongly rely on public transport. It found that 24% of unemployed 18 to 24 year olds have been prevented in some way from securing a job because of the lack of a suitable bus services in their area. According to the research, 67% of unemployed 18 to 24 year olds think they would be less likely to get a job if there were no buses. 34% of unemployed 18 to 24 year olds indicate believing they would be more likely to get a job if there were more suitable bus services.
One of the key policy proposals from Bus 2020 is a concessionary bus travel scheme for apprentices to help reduce unemployment. This would offer a 50% discount on bus fares to apprentices. It estimates such a scheme would cost the Government around £28m but would deliver £33.4m in gross benefits. Annual net benefits would be worth £6m and the extra jobs created would be worth £8m, according to the document.
A new tax incentive, the Bus Bonus, to help get Britain’s people to work and promote a modal shift is another proposal. The scheme would offer a 34% tax and national insurance saving on season tickets to employees at a workplace with ten or more staff. Employees could buy a season ticket for bus travel before income tax and national insurance were deducted from their salary. It believes it would cost the Government £48m in income tax and national insurance revenue. Annual net benefits would be worth £72m and the extra jobs created would be worth £25m, according to the document.
Finally, Bus 2020 calls for additional Government support for bus lanes and other priority measures. The cost of this is estimated at £77.5m in 2020/21, but would deliver annual gross benefits of £1.4bn. Annual net economic benefits, to users and non-users, will be just over £1.3bn in 2020/21, according to Greener Journeys. £75.3m in wider economic benefits would be created in the labour market in 2020/21, the campaign group believes.
The manifesto launch at the House of Commons was followed by a panel discussion including Norman Baker MP, Transport Minister; Martin Griffiths, CEO, Stagecoach, David Brown, Chair, pteg; Jim Pickard, Chief Political Correspondent, Financial Times; and Professor Tony Travers, Director of LSE London.
Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, Claire Haigh, said, ‘Everyone is talking about how the economy is beginning to grow again but some young people are being left behind. We need to give our young people the best chance to get a job and gain valuable experience and qualifications that will ensure they can play a productive part in our economy, both now and in the future. To do that, they need to be able to use affordable public transport. Buses must be part of the solution. Buses are the backbone of Britain and every pound invested in buses is an investment in the future of Britain’s communities, high streets and city centres, young people and our future prosperity. We urge the Government to implement the proposals put forward in our manifesto to ensure that Britain effectively harnesses the potential of the bus and deliver benefits to all.’
Transport Minister, Norman Baker, said, ‘The policy proposals put forward in Bus 2020 by Greener Journeys will be a welcomed contribution to the debate. Buses enable people of all ages to get to work, particularly young people, who are more reliant than any other demographic on bus services. We will continue to work with the bus industry to ensure it remains an affordable and reliable form of transport for the young people of Britain.’
A CPT spokesman said, ‘CPT welcomes today’s launch of Greener Journeys’ “Bus 2020: A Manifesto for the Next Parliament” document. Buses are by far the most used form of public transport on our roads, and for many provide the only viable means of accessing education, employment, shopping facilities and local services. They also play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions in our towns and cities. The manifesto places a particular emphasis on the important role that the bus plays in getting people back into training, work whilst also delivering greener growth – a triple win! CPT whole-heartedly supports the work of Greener Journeys and its efforts to get buses on peoples’ agendas.’
Stagecoach have already committed to making its jobseekers scheme permanent after a six month pilot. It gives people looking for work across the UK a 50% discount on their bus travel to help them find employment. The operator cites figures that show jobseekers are making nearly 20,000 discounted bus journeys a month under the initiative. The biggest use of it has been in Scotland, where there are more than 3,000 trips a month, followed by the East Midlands, with around 2,700. More than 1,400 journeys a month are being made by those seeking work in Wales. Holders of a Jobcentreplus Travel Discount Card qualify for half-price single and return tickets.
Stagecoach funds the initiative entirely on a commercial basis without any public sector support. According to the operator, around 25% of households do not have access to a car and are completely reliant on the bus with the University of Leeds research revealing a tenth of bus commuters would be forced to look for another job if they could no longer commute using this form of transport. An estimated 400,000 people are in work or in a better job because of the availability of a bus service, according to the report.
Transport Minister, Norman Baker, said, ‘Buses play an important role in boosting economic growth by helping people get to job interviews and get into work. This is good news and I am really pleased to see Stagecoach supporting job seekers during these tough economic times – I encourage other bus operators to do the same. Young people have a vital role to play in the future of the local bus industry and our economic recovery.