Government urged to promote public transport as new campaign is launched to get people back on board

19 May 2021

A national campaign to help get people back on board public transport is being launched outside the House of Lords and across social media today by sustainable transport charity, Campaign for Better Transport.

The Way Forward campaign is calling on the Government to support public transport by actively encouraging people to use buses, trains, coaches and trams as restrictions ease, and introducing an incentive scheme to help boost passenger numbers as part of a national plan to place public transport at the heart of a green recovery.

Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said:

“The events of the last year have made people less confident about using public transport, but as restrictions continue to ease, we all need to start getting back on board. That’s why we’ve launched this campaign to urge the Government to reassure people that public transport is safe again and to introduce a national scheme of discounted fares to encourage people to use it. By getting back on board we can all help to reduce congestion, protect the environment and boost the economy in a way that is fair and sustainable.”

As more workplaces, shops and businesses reopen in the coming months, campaigners argue it will be crucial that people return to public transport to avoid increased congestion and air pollution, and help communities recover. To protect public transport services both now and in the long term, and encourage people back on board, The Way Forward campaign is calling on the Government to:

  • Lead the way with a national campaign that encourages people to see public transport as a safe way to travel and to launch an incentive scheme that helps to get people back on board
  • Continue the emergency financial support for public transport services until passenger numbers have recovered
  • Place public transport at the heart of a green recovery with a passenger-centred approach to getting people back on board. Public transport needs to evolve to suit new ways of working and living to offer a genuine alternative to the private car. It needs to be easier and simpler to pay for with contactless payments as standard and multi-modal tickets that can be used on buses and trains, and more affordable with flexible tickets that fit new travel patterns
  • Protect services and renew the public transport system by restoring lost rail links and reconnecting communities to the network.

Mr Tuohy added:

“A public transport network shaped around passengers that provides the services people need, at a price they afford, as we adapt to new ways of working and living is crucial to rebuilding the economy and tackling climate change. By placing public transport at the heart of its transport policy the Government can make sure we all have access to easy, convenient and affordable journeys no matter where we live.”


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Notes to Editors

Case study quotes

Andrew from Seaford in East Sussex

“Most of the time, I need to catch the bus for work. To be honest with you, getting the bus is what gives me my independence. I don’t want to keep relying on my wife to ferry me about. The bus gives me that bit of independence and experience. The drivers don’t rush me, and they don’t put me under any pressure. I honestly believe the bus company has done everything it possibly can to make the bus safe. There’s no reason, in my view, that you’re more likely to get Covid on a bus; you’re more likely to get it in a supermarket. I still wear a mask on the bus for my own safety, even though I have a Helping Hand exemption card. I’m quite an outgoing person and [the bus] means I don’t feel trapped and reliant on other people. I know there’s a bus stop down the road and I can go myself. I’m not a person to stand by and let everyone do everything for me. The bus is good for disabled people.”

Jessica from South Brent in Devon

“Using public transport has always been important to us as a family… Our children have been used to jumping on and off trains and buses from a very early age… We have always found traveling on the train with them to be a really enjoyable experience. We get to look out at the scenery, play games and chat to fellow travellers… that kind of thing, so it’s quite relaxing really.

“As this latest lockdown eases, we’re really looking forward to travelling further afield again and we’ve even worked with the children to put a little list together of the places we’d like to visit. We’ve promised them several trips to the beach, a night away in a hotel, and best of all we’re going to visit Grandad for the first time in 14 months, so we’re looking forward to that.”

Katy from Brighton

“Before the pandemic, we used trains and buses to go further afield, to take our children out of town to walk and cycle, and we obviously used trains to visit our relatives across the country. If we’re not cycling, we like to take buses along the south coast and into the South Downs; we might combine bus and rail, as that can work really well to access a rural starting point and a town end to a walk. Our kids have fun on our journeys as we can give them proper quality time, and on rail especially they can get up and walk around sometimes, too. Strapping perpetual motion machines into car seats for several hours at a time is a very odd thing to do, if you think about it! When rural pub gardens are open, we grown-ups will be able to have a post-walk pint and not have to do the driving. We also hunt down the cafes, bakeries and good village stores to stock up on goodies for the journey home – that’s part of the day out.”

Diane from Coventry

“As mature people it’s important that we remain mentally and physically active and public transport means we can continue to get out and enjoy our lives. I haven’t been using the bus as often as I did previously as I’ve been following government advice to only make essential trips. But as we start to come out of lockdown and are all able to travel a little more freely, I believe it’s really important we all take some responsibility to make some small changes to our lives by considering using public transport more. One of the things I couldn’t help but notice during lockdown is that quieter roads have meant less pollution. While taking my daily exercise I have found myself thinking: ‘I haven’t seen the skies as clear as this since I was a kid!'”


  • The Way Forward campaign is national public awareness campaign which aims to harness public and Government support for public transport through traditional, social and online media and campaign actions. For more information see:
  • The UK is committed to reducing its carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. Transport is responsible for more than a quarter of all carbon emissions (more than any other sector), half of which comes from cars and only four per cent from public transport (buses, coaches and rail).
  • A quarter to households do not have access to a car, rising to 45 per cent of low-income ones. 35 per cent of all trips are by public transport, walking or cycling, with lack of transport a key barrier to employment for many residents living in low-income neighbourhoods.
  • A public survey carried out in March 2021 by Campaign for Better Transport revealed that UK adults largely expect to choose to travel as they did before the pandemic with private cars remaining the dominant form of transport for around half for shopping, leisure and personal matters. A more in-depth analysis of the results of the survey is available here.
  • The Way Forward campaign is run by Campaign for Better Transport which operates in England and Wales. Campaign for Better Transport’s vision is for all communities to have access to high quality, sustainable transport that meets their needs, improves quality of life and protects the environment. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).