IN the UK 3.5 million people rely on bus services to travel to work with a further one million relying on it as a vital back up.
With many of those employed unable to afford a car of their own the bus is the only way to travel to work.
However with the increase in fares many of those who rely on the buses are left paying extortionate fares daily in order to keep a full time job.
Jess Davies, a student and former employee at a retail store at The Trafford Centre, explains her frustration with the ever growing fees:
“When I worked at The Trafford Centre my only way of getting to work was bus, however the amount of money I was spending on transport was coming from a large portion of my earnings.
“I worked out that roughly a third of the money I was earning was being spent on getting to the job, this resulted in me having to leave the job due to it no longer being able to support my financial needs. It meant that money that could have been spent on rent was instead being spent on buses.”
Between 2015-16 the Department of Transport found that the number of people using buses fell by 2.6 per cent in the same year that fares rose by 1.8 per cent.
In Greater Manchester alone, passengers make over 225 million journeys on the more than 600 registered bus services every year.
The average unemployment rate in the UK is 5.4 per cent and within Greater Manchester it is currently at 6.5 per cent with over 88 thousand people unemployed in the area.
In research found by Greener Journeys, it was stated that a 10 per cent improvement in access to bus services would mean that nationally 50,000 more people would be in work every day.
Stagecoach Manchester does offer half price tickets to those who can provide a valid Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount card, but a number or people still can’t afford the daily fares.
From a survey carried out on social media, a majority of people said that if bus fares were cheaper they would find it easier to travel to work and also that bus fares impact how far they are able to travel to work.
Alongside this, Manchester’s ever growing student population the bus services play an important role for those attending university on a daily basis from all over the region.
Stagecoach’s Magic Bus service, originating in the city of Glasgow, now only runs in Manchester and provides students from Manchester Metropolitan University and University of Manchester cheap transport primarily between campuses and Piccadilly Gardens.
This alongside Stagecoach’s other services provide a large amount of the transport for students attending University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and University of Salford.
However despite it being found in 2010 by TAS that Stagecoach passengers save on average £300 a year compared to if they used other bus operators, students still find the prices too high.
Imogen Beasley commutes from Salford to Manchester Metropolitan University and although agrees Stagecoach does offer the cheapest fare they’re still not cheap enough.
“I think all fares are too high. The Unirider offers good value however it is a big amount of my student loan that is being spent on transport.
“I also use it to travel to work and it means I’m spending a big chunk of my wage on travel as well.”
A taxi (for up to 4 people) from Salford to Manchester is cheaper than two bus fares. The price of public transport is ridiculous.
— John Byrne (@rukbat10) July 29, 2016
Despite lower fares playing a big part in people being able to use the buses more frequently the reliability and regularity of the service can also help with this.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Buses make vital journeys possible every day, and this Government is doing everything it can to improve services.
“Buses are the most popular form of public transport in England, with more than 4.5 billion journeys a year, and we want to see services thrive, including rural areas.
“We are bringing in measures in the Bus Services Bill that will give councils powers and flexibility to help deliver regular, reliable services for all.”
Dane Cobain commented on Twitter saying he would be more likely to use the services “if they ran on schedule and didn’t keep breaking down.”
Bus fare from Manchester to home is more expensive than the train fare from sheff to mcr?¿
— Vanessa (@vanessaawongg) October 15, 2016
Employability is not the only thing that is effected by the chance to use buses on a daily basis, as found by Greener Journeys nearly 1 in 4 households don’t have a car and without the option of public transport many people can face social exclusion.
Jean Herschell from Denton is retired and uses buses to regularly travel around due to never having owned a car.
“Although I have my bus pass so don’t have to worry about fares the regularity and services that run near my house still can affect how sociable I am.
“I often travel into the city to visit my granddaughter and without regular bus services I wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Improving the bus services in areas across Greater Manchester it can not only help boost employability but also the social wellbeing of residents.
In April 2016 First began to run Leigh-Salford-Manchester Bus Rapid Transit scheme to provide transport connections between Leigh, Atherton, Tyldesley, Ellenbrook to Manchester city centre via Salford.
Councillor Roger Jones Executive Support for Transport spoke highly of the new service telling Quays News:
“I am informed that increases in passenger numbers show no signs of stopping and we are now up to 47,000 passengers a week. This is truly fantastic after only 7 months of operation and there is a good chance that we can do more to advertise the service in 2017, once the 5 new buses arrive.”
However the new buses have brought in a large number of passengers.
“The bad news is that we are experiencing overcrowding on some peak time services and passengers are unable to get on some very full buses at certain bus stops.
“I have spoken to Ian Humphreys (First) and he informs me that they have undertaken some roadside checks and at its peak 10 journeys were carrying standing passengers and 4 of these journeys had to leave passengers at the bus stop.”
Currently First have in place plans for two additional buses and a new timetable in place from October 31 in order to cope with overcrowding issues and with Stagecoach introducing contactless payment on their services it’s clear that bus travel in Manchester is continuously improving.