Discuss the extent to which buses can be seen as a sustainable method of transport

During the recession, buses have become an important part of people’s day-to-day routines, with many people using buses instead of cars as a mode of public transport. The preferred method of transport has changed over the years due to changes in technology, congestion and changes in incomes. There are various modes of public transport: cars, trains, air travel, trams and buses. The 1968 Transport Act meant that the National Bus Company served bus routes within England and Wales, yet in the 1980’s under Margaret Thatcher’s powers the bus companies become privatised.

The reason she made the government have no direct intervention was to stimulate competition within firms and create a monopolistic competition. The main company in the market is Stagecoach and is still running and providing a service. Compared to other modes of transport such as privately owned vehicles such as cars, buses provide a service that allows less carbon emissions to be produced and more people to travel in one vehicle.

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This means that buses (if they are being used at full capacity) are helping prevent the negative externalities that arise from cars. Cars produce pollution and congestion and buses help reduce both of these. Social costs arise from using cars such as the vulnerability to fuel price increases and as to whether world oil price rises. Buses are relatively cheap and even low-income groups find that buses are cheaper than running their own vehicle.

This shows that buses are a sustainable mode of transport for low-income groups and in the current economic state are good for low income groups as it means people can still get around. Even though cars do come under scrutiny, they are still massively owned and used, with the 2001 census stating that ‘’44 per cent of households in Britain own just one, 24 per cent own two, 4 per cent own three and 1 per cent own four or more. ’’

The Government’s car scrappage scheme has been introduced to get people to buy cars to keep the car manufacturers in business. With it becoming cheaper to own a car there is more incentive now to own one. The amount of cars on the road mean that there is no way that people could just move from using cars to never using them again. This shows that cars are a sustainable method and with the governments view on green and environmentally friendly services, they could intervene and make the car manufacturers ensure that the new cars emit less co2 gases etc.

If they were to do this and with new technology being designed all the time then it’d become a more sustainable method and would decrease the amount of negative externalities involved in running a car. Underground transport in big cities such as London is good as it is cheap, it is a monopoly as TFL controls the London Underground. The problem with underground sustainability is the infrastructure needed to build and the time and the cost.

Trains are another mode of public transport, but railways are constrained by specific infrastructure and in the future, there isn’t a way that all routes needed will be covered, as railways cannot suddenly be built. It would also increase costs. Canal networks are also the same showing that they aren’t as sustainable in the future. Buses will not have that problem as they will always be able to cover different routes and extra roads will be made anyway by the government to make for the population getting higher and roads being congested.

Buses could be seen as not being sustainable in the future as there could be huge technological advances meaning that the bus companies have to increase their fares and there could be other cheaper forms of transport out there by then, then bus companies won’t be able to make a profit anymore. Buses should be able to expand easily as long as there is the demand for buses to be used so that the companies can buy in more buses and train more people.

If the demand isn’t there or the prices are just too high then people will want to use the cheapest method of transport and also the method that will get them there the quickest. Currently, buses provide a service that is sustainable with the prices being low, allow monopolistic competition in the market, and help the environment if people switch from cars to buses. In the future, I think that buses could continue to be sustainable and will still be used widely and will be used alongside another form of transport such as cars or undergrounds.