How to drive passengers away from life on the buses

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Driving in Portsmouth at peak times is, let’s face it, tricky. You need all your wits about you and oodles of patience.

For a city so small it can take ridiculous amounts of time to get from, say, Eastney to Wymering.

But that’s the way of things and we have grown to shrug our stressed shoulders, drum our fingers in frustration on the wheel and accept it all as part of living in one of the most densely-populated cities in Europe.

But should it be like that? Of course not.

There are plenty of cramped cities in Britain and abroad where public transport, and buses in particular, rules the streets.

Not so in Portsmouth where, it seems, many of those who would use the bus network have been driven away, either back into their cars or taxis. And, of course, all of this adds to the congestion.

On page 11 today we report a shocking statistic produced by the bus operators.

This figure shows what can only be described as a dramatic fall in the number of bus journeys taken in the city. They are down by a number approaching one million.

Now, this is hardly surprising, although the size of the figure is.

For it is surely no coincidence that this decline has come at the same time as fare increases and, more pertinently, widespread route changes.

The News reported extensively on the uproar from passengers when these changes were introduced and we predicted the outcome.

Councillor Luke Stubbs says real-time digital displays at bus stops would help inspire passenger confidence in buses. They would even if it was only to tell those waiting why their bus was running late.

A system such as this was attempted some years ago by the city council and failed. But the train operating companies have made it work, as has Transport for London. And if they can do it in the capital, why not here?

Yes, it would take sizeable investment to build a system, but it would be money spent wisely. But the most important thing is to ensure buses go where people want them to go in the first place.