How can bus companies help save the high street?


National Express West Midlands 'platinum' bus passing Selfridges in Birmingham's Bull Ring shopping centre

How can bus companies help save our struggling high streets through behavioural change and price cutting? National Express thinks it has the answer. It has been reviewing the success of a slash in bus ticket prices around smaller high streets that are struggling against online shopping.

Future Cities Forum first started debating the decline of the British high street last year when Deputy Director of Regeneration at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, Rachel Fisher, gave a presentation at our forum in White City, London, and suggested that our 'complex relationship with the car' is one of the key components in frustrating the smooth flow and design of modern day high streets.

Since then our forum has looked at the role of autonomous vehicles, new cycle ways and smart ticketing on buses to help solve the disconnect that people feel around transport when they need to get to work or visit the shops.

The bus operator, National Express has become aware that many of the smaller high streets in the UK need help with affordable public transport, especially those in the Black Country, to the west of Birmingham. It has been attempting to support local shops and businesses by slashing the price of its low fare zone day tickets, covering places such as Sandwell and Dudley, with 4,000 extra bus journeys each day since launching in 2017.

Research by Transport for West Midlands, states that 67% of customers said they were making more journeys as a result of the cheaper tickets and almost two thirds of these journeys were for shopping purposes. Half of these journeys were not being made before, so it is considered that this new action is helping to grow local economies.