BEN Wakerley is MD of Warrington's Own Buses.

In this column, he explains how it is essential that bus passengers return to normality to keen services running

THE Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a significant health and economic emergency.

The hardship faced by families, friends, businesses, and organisations should not be under-estimated. The lockdown of large parts of the economy was viewed by some as a ‘reset’ and a period for re-evaluation.

Certainly, from my perspective, I noticed a reduction in car journeys around our town. Fewer traffic jams allowed the best bus punctuality and service reliability we have had in recent years.

Almost 100 per cent of bus journeys operated and punctuality was consistently over 90 per cent on time. The miles per gallon of diesel fuel used by our buses also improved, due to higher average road speeds. Air quality appeared to be visibly better. It was eye opening as to what an opportunity there is to rethink the way we travel and the wide-ranging benefits of fewer cars.

From time to time I read criticism about bus service reliability on social media, by far and away the biggest reason buses being late or cancelled is buses being stuck in traffic jams. Fewer cars improves reliability and reduces operating costs.

The pandemic brought a significant downturn in bus passengers. At the peak there was under 10 per cent of the usual patronage. I am pleased to say that this is gradually improving, and we are now at 50 per cent of last year’s passengers. Unfortunately, this step in the right direction is much slower than the return of cars in the town, which as the Warrington Guardian reported on August 17 has now almost returned to 2019 levels. The lockdown gave us a chance to reconsider and evaluate the way we move around, and we must not lose the opportunity to build back better.

Both local and national government have helped the bus industry by providing a ‘Covid Bus Service Support Grant’, which has helped to keep services running and protected the jobs of bus drivers and their colleagues.

We are very grateful for this. Warrington’s Own Buses is one of the larger employers in the town and the jobs are vital for families and our local economy. It is essential that bus passenger numbers return to normality, to keep the routes running in the longer term.

You may also have read about plans for a new bus depot and we have expressed our interest in a switch to electric buses to become Britain’s first ‘Electric Bus Town’.

Warrington Guardian:

It is important to stress that taking advantage of schemes such as these is not an either/or against improving bus services that already exist. We are continually working hard to improve reliability and punctuality. We run several services that are not particularly profitable, and we do this to keep people connected. We also understand the desire to see restraint on bus fares. We seek to balance these objectives with the need to cover operating costs given passenger demand.

As ever, I will keep you posted on the developments of your bus company and I wish the best of luck to those students returning to school and college next week and remind you to buy your annual Touch & Go bus pass at the special offer price, which is only available for a limited time.

You can find the details at