The role of bus partnerships in Great Britain

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, place - europe, planning - network design, planning - service improvement, planning - service quality, organisation - competition, organisation - regulation, economics - benefits, ridership - growth


Godfrey, Taylor, Thredbo, Conference, Competition, Land passenger transport, Market initiative, Partnership, Regulation, Bus


Great Britain (outside London) is unusual in Western Europe in leaving the planning of its bus networks to the private sector, albeit from an established historic basis. It took several years following deregulation in 1986, compounded by wholesale changes in the ownership of bus operators, for new, stable, mature relationships to develop between operators and local transport authorities. The building of partnership working, founded on common interests of encouraging greater accessibility by bus, increasing patronage, and modal shift from cars – with their consequent social, economic and environmental benefits – has underpinned some impressive achievements over the last 25 years.

We examine the role of partnerships in enabling and sustaining improvements in service quality and supply, and securing additional investment in network resources and facilities. This reflects lengthy direct experience of developing the partnership concept with authorities and operators and working through the variety of challenges. Added to this experience, we draw on 2015 data obtained from across Britain while revising the relevant government guidance. We consider the benefits of and obstacles to partnership, the mechanisms and components of successful partnerships, and the lessons from less successful implementations. Finally, we look at more recent changes in the partnership landscape.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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