Understanding that buses are at the very centre of the public transport network, often making more than twice as many journeys as the railways, the UK Government’s vision for the future of buses was clear: improve bus services across England. With patronage at an all time low after the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department for Transport (DfT) set out to deliver the UK Government’s ambitious ‘Bus Back Better’ strategy and transform the sector at scale.

Drawing on our specific expertise within the bus sector – as well as our deep domain knowledge of the built environment – we led a consortium that supported the assessment of 76 bus service improvement plans. These plans were completed to tight timeframes, and have since enabled 32 Local Transport Authorities to initially receive £1.08B in funding. Alongside this, Arup addressed issues of capacity and capability in the sector by designing and implementing a ‘Bus Centre of Excellence’. A dedicated hub of resource and shared best practice designed to address one of the major challenges in transforming the sector – the decline in skills as experienced personnel leave the industry and capability needed to continue to innovate.

With national renewed interest in the bus sector with proven benefits including improved social equity, public health, decarbonisation and contributing £21bn to the economy each year, increasing skills and building capabilities will ultimately improve the experience for bus users and patronage in the long term. We collaborated with the DfT to transform the way that local authorities work with private sector bus operators to deliver wider benefits for the public including simpler fares, thousands of new buses, improved routes and higher frequencies to cater for post pandemic lifestyles.