Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) and bus operators have made a commitment to deliver a minimum standard of service under the West Midlands Bus Passenger Charter.
The charter includes for the first time a ‘last bus promise’ under which passengers whose final bus of the day is cancelled or leaves earlier than usual can claim compensation for their alternative journey – such as a cab fare – home.
This is to ensure no one is stranded at a bus stop late at night due to the last bus not showing up and builds on work by TfWM to improve safety for vulnerable people through the Strategy for Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls when designing and developing transport infrastructure and services.
The new charter has been drawn up and agreed by the West Midlands Bus Alliance, a partnership which includes TfWM, bus operators and the transport industry watchdog Transport Focus. It was developed as part of the Enhanced Partnership for running bus services across the region and includes a range of commitments from access and support for disabled and elderly passengers to the condition of vehicles, bus stations and stops.
It also includes a commitment to keep passengers informed of changes to services, such as through social media and travel apps as well as notices at bus shelters and stations, and a pledge to make it as easy as possible for people to plan their journeys and buy tickets – whether using contactless card, Swift travel card or cash.
Crime and anti-social behaviour are also key concerns for passengers, so the charter sets out the responsibilities of the region’s Safer Travel Team – including the high-visibility role of transport safety officers patrolling the network, the use of more than 2,500 CCTV cameras to highlight issues and identify problems, and clear advice for the public on how to report vandalism or anti-social behaviour.
TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), also sets out the commitment to invest, through the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), in making journeys more reliable, quicker and greener. Measures include the development of the cross-city rapid bus network and growing the fleet of zero-emission buses.
West Midlands Bus Alliance played a pivotal role in developing the charter and is chaired by Linda McCord, of industry watchdog Transport Focus. She said: “This new bus charter represents a clear commitment from bus operators and the transport authorities to the region’s many thousands of bus passengers.
“Whether on board buses, at bus stations or at bus stops, the charter sets out what you can expect from levels of cleanliness to travel and ticket information.
“And we are pleased to confirm that the new charter ensures that no one will be stranded if their final bus of the day fails to arrive – the operator will cover the alternative cost of their journey home. This is crucial in ensuring the safety of the travelling public late at night.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said: “Buses are the backbone of our public transport network – providing a vital daily service for hundreds of thousands of local people right across our region at the same time as helping us to tackle the climate emergency and reduce traffic congestion on our roads.
“And as a transport authority working with our operators, we have taken great steps to both protect our network, set some of the lowest fares in the UK and invest in high quality vehicles and infrastructure – such as our bus stations and routes – to make buses even more attractive to passengers.
“The charter builds on this track record with key commitments to improve safety and reassure passengers including staff visibility at our bus stations and daily patrols by our Transport Safety Officers.”
The Bus Passenger Charter is the latest in a line of measures, many delivered through the Bus Alliance using BSIP funding, to make buses a more affordable, reliable and greener alternative to private cars to support the region’s #WM2041 carbon reduction targets and reduce traffic congestion in our towns and cities.
These measures include:
- The try-before-you-buy incentive scheme for employers and organisations to encourage staff to switch from cars to buses for the commute.
- Simplified nbus fare system meaning customers can catch any bus from any bus operator with their day, week or month tickets.
- Recruitment of more transport safety officers to tackle anti-social behaviour
- Expansion of subsidies to keep at risk and socially necessary services running
- Continued investment in bus priority measures such as bus lanes to improve reliability
- Investment in new zero-emission buses including through the Coventry All Electric Bus City programme
Cllr Mike Bird, WMCA portfolio lead for transport and leader of Walsall Council, added: “At a time when the bus industry is facing great challenges, we have in the West Midlands been successful in securing unprecedented funding for our network – not only keeping the vast majority of existing services on the road while keeping fares low, but also investing for the future – whether it’s the incentive schemes to attract new passengers or the roll out of electric zero-emission buses on our streets.
“Getting more people on our buses is a key part of our plans to reduce traffic jams on our roads, improve our air quality and keep the region moving.”