Buses are the lifelines of our cities, towns and villages. They reduce congestion, get people to work, drive economic growth and keep communities alive.
As Catch the Bus Week draws to a close, I wanted to take the opportunity to once again pledge my support for the campaign. With over 160 supporters, from bus operators, passenger transport groups and local authorities, this year's campaign has been the most successful yet. As the sun shone on the week, droves of people tweeted their support, donned green hands and most importantly, caught the bus.
The bus plays a crucial role in our society. It is the most used form of public transport in the UK, with 4.7 billion journeys a year. The bus unites communities, ensures everyone can access local shops and events, and connects people with jobs and educational opportunities. As Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, I saw first-hand the importance of the bus to communities across Britain. For many people in our society, the bus is a vital lifeline, helping the most vulnerable to remain connected with family, friends and their local community.
The bus can provide a passport out of poverty, connecting people to the opportunities they need. Three quarters of job seekers do not have access to a car. The bus can be a route to accessing employment.
Older people are among the biggest users of bus services. Empowered by the free bus pass, older people use the bus to access services, contribute to society and stay healthy and independent.
I was therefore delighted to take part in this year's nationwide Catch the Bus Week. On Monday, I joined the team from Arriva Yorkshire to launch the week at Wakefield Bus Station, equipped with the trademark foam green hands, now a Catch the Bus Week tradition! Launching the week on board one of Arriva's new Sapphire vehicles was particularly exciting, and it was great to have the opportunity to see first-hand some of the improvements to customer experience that will be delivered.
Across Yorkshire and the UK, the week has been marked by some inventive and exciting activity, from events showing 11 year olds how to catch the bus safely, to ticket and prize giveaways. It has been wonderful to see the whole bus industry collaborating on this nationwide campaign, and encouraging people out of cars and onto the bus in creative ways.
Buses serve the society and the economy, as well as offering a sustainable travel option. It has been a pleasure to support this year's celebration of the bus!