It’s 'off the buses' as reliability declines across Milton Keynes

Passengers are giving up on the buses in Milton Keynes as reliability declines and shopping habits change, councillors have been told.

Members of Milton Keynes Council’s Scrutiny Management Committee plan to take a more in-depth look at the issue in the next year.

Station Square is a pinch point for buses in Milton Keynes

Station Square is a pinch point for buses in Milton Keynes

The committee receives what is called a Corporate Dashboard, where issues of concern are flagged up.

“Passenger journeys on local bus services have fallen steadily since early 2016,” said a report presented to councillors by Sarah Gonsalves, the council’s director of policy, insight and communications.

“During the year ended December 31, 2018 there were around 8.8 million bus journeys originating in Milton Keynes. This is a fall of over 15 per cent in the past three years.

“There is no one reason for this fall. Increasing fares, cuts in local government support, the perceived and actual increase in unreliability of services, limited marketing and changes in consumer shopping habits have all contributed to the fall, to some degree.”

There is one glimmer of light. December saw a 1.9 per cent rise compared with December 2017. But the report said: “Time will tell if this is the start of a recovery, or merely an indicator of a mild December.”

Councillors were also told that there has been a significant decline in bus punctuality since September 2018. No single operator is achieving a 90 per cent target.

The report says a number of operators are yet to solve timetable issues.

“There are also a number of ‘pinch points’ around Milton Keynes which are resulting in some delays as a consequence of congestion. Station Square being the most significant.

The council is currently reviewing the bus network with outside consultants but is finding a lack of data because of cuts. They no longer collect information from roadside surveys, but instead rely on a real time passenger information system which has some gaps and errors. These are being subjected to ‘data cleansing’.

The issue is set to be scrutinised in more detail by councillors sometime in the next financial year.