British Public Transport Services in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Newcastle Traincrew

An analysis of how British public transport service levels have changed, from immediately prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, to the domestic “lockdowns” of early 2021. Explores the political and practical meanings of service, describes changes overall and by nation/region, seeks explanatory correlations, reassesses service as connectivity, and draws some conclusions. A headline summary:

  • 87% of public transport services have been maintained across Great Britain, with no evidence of disproportionate service cuts in rural areas.
  • There is at best a weak correlation between change in service level and change in the viability of public transport for essential work travel.
  • The bus sector has tended to protect mid-frequency routes that could have been made un-viable for essential work journeys, had service cuts been more uniform.
  • National rail has cut services more harshly away from London, and emphasised strategic national connectivity over connectivity for work-related travel.
  • Wales not only reduced service levels more than elsewhere in Britain, but did so with no particular regard for maintaining work-related connectivity.
Continue reading “British Public Transport Services in the Coronavirus Pandemic”

Connecting the Union

FlyBe Plane at Manchester Airport

“Connecting the Union” analyses the perception of public transport connectivity between the four nations of the United Kingdom. It responds to a core aim of Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review – to widen the benefits of cohesion across the UK – by using a method which emphasises journey opportunities, not the actual journeys common to conventional assessment. Public transport inter-nation connectivity is summarised, then further probed to reveal three strategic truisms:

Spain demonstrates a natural evolution of territorial cohesion from the high politics of physically linking territory, to an embedded service connectivity which reflects the character of place. Some suggestions are made for assessing something similar in the UK.

Continue reading “Connecting the Union”

Buses are Always a Footnote

Coastliner Bus at Malton

In a footnote to Boris Johnson’s reconfirmation of the troubled HS2 railway megaproject, the Department for Transport announced additional funding for buses. £5 billion (less £350 millionor maybe a billion … for cycling) over 5 years, spread across “every region outside London”. Presumably within England, since local transport policy is devolved elsewhere, although in a nebulous style typical of the Prime Minister, the language is of “country” – however one chooses to see it.

Needless to say this “new vision for local transport” is extremely light on detail, as yet devoid of strategy, and still pending the appropriate Comprehensive Spending Review. We’d all be well advised to get it in writing first.

One billion pounds per year is not entirely insignificant – almost 50p per bus passenger journey (in England outside London) or just over £1 per bus vehicle mile operated. Potentially enough to buy aspirations for “higher frequency services” or “more affordable, simpler fares” on urban networks. But nowhere near enough to deliver “turn up and go” frequencies in small town, periurban or rural areas, where patronage and consequent farebox revenue would tend to be minimal. A but that will be the bane of this politically, since much of the electoral constituency of Johnson’s government is small town, periurban or rural, precisely the places where public transport does not deliver as much “bang for the buck”. Continue reading “Buses are Always a Footnote”

Dialling a Ride for Eight

Geese and Goslings

An exposition of the current regulatory travails of Britain’s Community Transport sector, with an exploration of the legal possibilities for operating Dial & Ride style community services using vehicles with capacity of no more than eight. This essay provides insight into why there is so little taxi policy locally, and why the British have such a problem with sharing. Continue reading “Dialling a Ride for Eight”

What is Connectivity?

South Shields

This essay expounds the policy concept of transport connectivity in Britain from two diverging epistemological perspectives – nation and location. The text characterises the difficulty of managing the midst, before applying the implications to Mobility as a Service. Continue reading “What is Connectivity?”

Aquius – An Alternative Approach to Public Transport Network Discovery

Aquius at the University of York

As the complexity of public transport networks grew during the 20th century, so did the inventiveness of the attempts to communicate those networks to users. Angular schematic maps, in the form of the London Underground map attributed to Harry Beck, have since become common for core urban and suburban public transport networks. Since at least the 1990s these maps have infected service design, with high frequency bus networks increasingly structured to be readily communicable as stylised network maps – inevitably limiting the range of direct destinations offered. Inter-regional networks necessarily remain complicated, and, as illustrated by various European attempts at national network flow maps, are challenging to communicate in schematic form. At least on paper. Continue reading “Aquius – An Alternative Approach to Public Transport Network Discovery”

Reanimating Regional

Delicious Deception

This essay outlines the regional biases of Spanish railway connectivity, reassesses the role of Castilla in the national railway, and ponders the balance between actuality and perception inherent in Adolfo Suárez’s doctrine of “café para todos“. Continue reading “Reanimating Regional”

Understanding Obligación

FEVE Crossroads

This essay builds a model of the human connectivity offered by Spain’s railways, revealing the patterns between Spaniards and the democractic tension therein, with income analysis that explores the import of “Obligación de Servicio Público”. Continue reading “Understanding Obligación”