User guide – Bus and Coach Travel

User guide – Bus and Coach Travel

Notes and definitions

Local bus service

One which is available to the general public, where passengers pay separate fares and travel a radial distance no greater than 15 miles (24 kms) from the point of boarding.

Other services

Include contract, private hire, express journeys, excursions and tours which are not registered as local services.

Passenger journeys (boardings)

Statistics are compiled on the basis that each boarding of a vehicle counts as one passenger journey. Therefore, each trip made by a passenger on one vehicle on one route counts as a separate journey. Return tickets therefore count as two passenger journeys. The numbers of passenger journeys using season tickets or travel passes are largely based on button presses by the driver or scaling factors applied to ticket machine data by the operator. Figures from 2004-05 include any adjustments applied by operators to allow for driver under-counting, but where this is not done no adjustment is made by DfT.

Vehicle kilometres

Estimates are for live (in service) mileage and exclude empty running of buses (e.g. between garage and terminus), driver instruction and vehicle testing.

Local bus fare indices

Information about the size of each fares change is supplied by a representative sample of around 100 operators. Indices are obtained by averaging the reported changes using weights based on receipts from passengers (excluding concessionary fare reimbursement from local authorities). In theory, therefore, the index measures the change in the average charge to the fare-paying passenger. The implementation of free concessionary fares is, though, included once, in the quarter within which it was introduced.

Commercial services

Those that run without direct financial support from a local transport authority. They are still eligible for central Government subsidy in the form of the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) (formerly known as the fuel duty rebate) and (where applicable) for concessionary fare reimbursement.

Subsidised services

Those considered socially necessary and run under contract to local transport authorities with some direct subsidy. They include a few services subsidised without competitive tendering, under Section 91 of the Transport Act 1985 ('de minimis' arrangements) in England and Wales or in accordance with the duty of best value in Scotland.

Concessionary fare reimbursement

A National Concessionary Travel schemes for groups such as elderly people and disabled people was rolled out in early 2006. Prior to that local authorities ran their own schemes. Bus operators are reimbursed for revenue lost as a result of their participation in the schemes, after taking into account a portion of the income from the extra travel generated, i.e. it is supposed to be profit-neutral. Journeys made under these schemes can be found in Table 11.29. These schemes should not be confused with the reductions offered to children, for example, by many operators on commercial grounds.

Staff employed

Platform staff comprise drivers, conductors and any other on-vehicle staff; maintenance staff include all employees engaged on cleaning, repair, service or maintenance of vehicles, while other staff include administrative staff. There may be some duplication of functions, particularly amongst the smaller operators.

Walking time to nearest bus stop

The Scottish Household Survey (SHS) interviewer asks how long it would take him/her to walk to the nearest bus stop (or place where one could get a bus).

Frequency of bus service

The SHS interviewer asks about the frequency of service at the nearest bus stop (or place one could get on a bus). If the householder says that the frequency of service varies, the interviewer asks for the week-day off-peak frequency.

SHS urban / rural classification

The urban / rural classification shown in some tables was developed for use in analysing the results of the SHS. It is based on settlement size, and (for the less-populated areas) the estimated time that would be taken to drive to a settlement with a population of 10,000 or more. Each postcode in Scotland was classed as either urban or non-urban, then clumps of adjacent urban postcodes, which together contained more than a certain total number of addresses, were grouped together to form settlements. Six categories were then defined:

  • Large urban areas - settlements with populations of 125,000 or more. These are around - but not the same as - Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. This category may (a) include areas outwith the boundaries of these four cities, in cases where a settlement extends into a neighbouring local authority, and (b) exclude some non-urban areas within the boundaries of these four cities.
  • Other urban areas - other settlements of population 10,000 or more.
  • Accessible small towns - settlements of between 3,000 and 9,999 people, which are within 30 minutes' drive of a settlement of 10,000+ people.
  • Remote small towns - settlements of between 3,000 and 9,999 people, which are not within 30 minutes' drive of a settlement of 10,000+ people.
  • Accessible rural areas - settlements of fewer than 3,000 people, which are within 30 minutes' drive of a settlement of 10,000+ people.
  • Remote rural areas - settlements of fewer than 3,000 people, which are not within 30 minutes' drive of a settlement of 10,000+ people.


DfT survey of Public Service Vehicle Operators

The basis for most of the statistics in this chapter is the annual returns which a sample of Public Service Vehicle operators makes to the Department for Transport (DfT).

The sample includes all operators who are licensed with 21 or more licence discs (which normally, but not always, equate to the number of vehicles), plus a random sample of smaller operators. Until 2010-11, the sample included both local and other operators, but from 2011-12 only local operators have been surveyed. Local operators are identified from the list of operators who receive BSOG and other sources. Sampling is stratified and based upon the size of the operator's fleet (in terms of the number of licence discs), though some operators are selected with certainty where this is necessary to ensure sufficient coverage in each geographical area.

Proxy data are generated for all local operators, and imputation is used for data which are missing either because the operator was not sampled or did not respond. Imputation is based either on previous returns from the operator or using other methods such as using other data the operator has supplied.

The figures for Scotland are primarily based on returns for operators with an address in Scotland, even though some operators may do work in England and vice versa. However, important information relating to local operators (mainly passenger boardings, vehicle kilometres and passenger receipts) is obtained at local authority level and so these estimates will exclude data relating to England, even though other variables such as staff numbers are all allocated to just one of an operator's local authorities – the one with the highest number of passenger boardings. (NB: a large group, such as Stagecoach, is not treated as a single operator: there will be a separate statistical return for each of its subsidiary companies.)

In September 2006, DfT revised the passenger numbers for each year from 1985/86 onwards in order to adjust for driver under-recording of the numbers of passengers who did not pay cash (e.g. those using season tickets, concessionary fare passes, return halves of tickets etc). A further survey showed that the allowance was not affected by the introduction of free concessionary fares.

In October 2012, the DfT revised passenger numbers, vehicle kms and passenger revenue relating to 2004-05 onwards. Although previous figures are presented these are not strictly comparable with the later years. The methodology used by DfT means that figures back to 2004-05 are subject to minor revisions each year (for example as new data is used to improve imputation of previous year's figures) though the broad trends shown are rarely affected.

Scottish Government and Transport Scotland finance data

This data is taken from Local Authority Finance returns and Transport Scotland finance records relating to grant payments and the administration of the National Concessionary Travel scheme.

In Summer 2011, Transport Scotland reviewed the Government Support for bus figures published in Bus and Coach Statistics 2011. This led to a revision of the figures to exclude support for non-bus transport. Figures have been revised back to 2006-07 when the National Concessionary Travel Scheme was introduced.

Transport Scotland National Concessionary Travel scheme data

Transport Scotland is responsible for reimbursing bus operators for carrying passengers under the National Concessionary Travel scheme. The application process for an NCT pass is managed by a third party contractor but summary numbers are provided to Transport Scotland which have been used to populated the card holder numbers used in this chapter.

Scottish Household Survey

The Scottish Household Survey is a large household level survey run in Scotland. Data is collected on a range of topics including transport and travel. The survey also includes a Travel Diary component. This data is used to analyse travel patterns and choices.

Further information

Within Scottish Transport Statistics:

  • Chapter 1 – Road vehicles,
  • Chapter 5 – Road Traffic (including congestion)
  • Chapter 6 – Road casualties
  • Chapter 11 – Personal Travel chapter (including travel to work)

Other Transport Scotland Publications:

Transport and Travel in Scotland – includes more detailed analysis of SHS data, in particular:

  • Table 4 – satisfaction with public transport
  • Table 5 – concessionary pass possession
  • Table 21 – Park and ride
  • Table 28 – Frequency of bus and train use
  • Tables 29 and 30 – Views on local buses and trains
  • Tables 31 and 32 – Concessionary pass use

Scottish Household Survey Travel Diary, published as part of Transport and Travel in Scotland – includes detailed tables using the Travel Diary dataset, in particular:

  • Table 2 – journeys by mode of transport
  • Table 2a – journey distance by mode of transport
  • Table 2b – stages by mode of transport
  • Table 4a – mode of transport by journey distance
  • Table 5a – distance summary statistics by mode of transport

SHS Local Authority Results, published as part of Transport and Travel in Scotland – provide breakdowns of SHS data by Local Authority, Regional Transport Partnership and Urban Rural Classification. In particular:

  • Table 1 - Travel to work by mode of transport
  • Table 2 - Travel to school by mode of transport
  • Table 11 - Frequency of bus and train use
  • Table 12 – Convenience of public transport
  • Table 13 – Satisfaction with public transport
  • Table 14a – Views on bus services
  • Table 15 – Concessionary pass use
  • Table 16 – journeys by mode of transport

The Department for Transport produces a number of related publications, including:

Other sources:

Office of the Traffic Commissioner – Traffic Commissioners' Annual report

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