Why home builders should care about bus franchising
Sustainable transport is often a major criticism of new housing schemes, particularly sites on the edge of town or as garden village developments. Opponents argue that such developments overly rely on private cars and fail the climate emergency test.
That’s why home builders care about bus franchising and consider lending it support. As a new report from Centre for Cities points out, only two cities in England currently lay out local bus routes for the wider public benefit: London and Nottingham.
- Bus franchising, which would allow the political leaders of cities to take control of bus services, has a whole range of benefits:
- It allows cities that want to discourage cars – by congestion charges, pollution restrictions or workplace parking levies – to ensure that public transport offers a viable alternative.
- It helps to keep bus prices down. Since 1999 bus fares in London have increased by 40 per cent, compared to 71 per cent in other metropolitan areas and 50 per cent in the rest of England.
- Bus franchising allows mayors to set the routes, frequencies, running hours and fares, allowing provision to be matched to need rather than profitability.
- Bus lanes work. On one route into Nottingham, buses make up 5 per cent of traffic but carry 48 per cent of the people using the road. Franchising allows mayors to ensure that public money is spent on bus priority schemes making journeys faster and more reliable.
What does all this mean for home builders?
Today a local authority will allocate land for development with little certainty that residents will have easy access to public transport. A larger scheme may involve a rail or tram stop, and some schemes may require time-limited funding for a bus service. But without bus franchising neither applicants nor councils can really guarantee an ongoing bus service, much less a frequent, reliable and affordable one.
As more and more councils declare a climate emergency and as the political pressure to avoid opening up the Green Belt grows from all parties, the ability of local politicians to intervene in the provision of bus services for new settlements could persuade decision-makers to think more seriously about the merits of sustainable urban extensions or new communities.
The Greater Manchester Combined Authority is currently consulting on bus franchising and other areas may not be far behind.
Home builders could do well to throw their support behind the plans.
This article first appeared on Place North West Insight.