The Transport Committee was pleased to have the opportunity to scrutinise the Bill after its consideration in the other place. Indeed, that was the fifth occasion in this Parliament and the previous one that the Committee had considered the state of our bus services, which indicates the level of dissatisfaction with the problems of the current system and the need for change.
Nobody should doubt the importance of buses to our local communities. About five times as many public transport journeys are made by bus than by train, yet little attention is given to buses. Overall, across Great Britain, buses account for 62% of passenger journeys, but the figure reaches over 80% in Manchester, Merseyside and the west midlands. We are therefore talking about a lot of people. I have always found it totally incomprehensible that there is so little national interest in bus services when so many people across the country are affected by them.
Good local bus networks open up new education opportunities for young people, provide routes to work—64% of jobseekers cannot drive or have no access to a vehicle—and ensure that people have proper access to healthcare and social facilities. The converse is also true. If bus services are inadequate or, indeed, do not exist at all, many people lose out on opportunities to develop their abilities or even to get a job, and the economy loses out, too. Interesting new analysis that was recently published by the University of Leeds suggests that a 10% improvement in local bus service connectivity is associated with a 3.6% reduction in social deprivation. Simply put, we cannot afford to neglect our bus networks.