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The most common theme identified as creating a barrier to bus use is the price and format of bus ticketing. The cost of regular bus fares are described as too expensive, making travelling by bus less appealing than other modes of transport. For example, most of those interviewed highlight that if residents are travelling as a family or in a group it is often cheaper to travel by taxi, as individual bus fares would be too costly. The cost of bus tickets in Portsmouth are described as much higher compared to other areas such as Southampton. This is associated with a lower uptake of the bus service in Portsmouth, resulting in inflated fares in order to compensate for the lower usage.

Comments from interviewees:

“…it costs as much to run a bus with one passenger as it does with 53. Because we have got the lowest take-up of bus use in the whole of south-east England for urban areas (…) but because you haven’t got enough people using the bus in the first place the cost is higher.” (Councillor)

 “…the things that I hear about the most is the price of it, and it’s cheaper to just get a taxi if you’ve got more than one person” (Councillor)

 “…prices are higher than in other places, than in Southampton for example. So First Bus charge, for a day pass, double in Portsmouth what they charge in Southampton.” (Councillor)

The format of bus tickets is also highlighted as a barrier to using the bus; users have to buy separate tickets for different bus companies. As tickets from one company are not accepted on buses provided by a different company, users may have to wait longer for a bus to arrive that will accept their ticket. Where users do purchase separate tickets for one journey (to enable them to travel with different operators) they have to absorb the increased cost of these fares. The complexity and cost of using more than one bus company for a single journey is clearly discouraging use of the bus, being described as inconvenient and confusing.

Comments from interviewees:

“And there are also problems, I believe, with ticketing. We’ve got two competing bus companies, and if you’ve got a return ticket on one, you can’t use it on the other” (Pompey Pensioners)

 “And of course another problem is that you don’t have integrated bus ticketing (…) that puts people off” (Councillor)


The availability of buses is identified as a common barrier to people using the bus. Many of those interviewed feel that the frequency of buses is too low, particularly at certain times such as Sundays, in the mornings, and in the evenings. This is particularly a barrier for residents who might otherwise use the bus to get to work, for example staff who work shifts at the QA hospital.

Comments from interviewees:

Sunday services are different, so people sometimes get isolated on a Sunday if they’re relying on buses and public transport, and evenings” (Councillor)

 “…for people who work at QA hospital, who have early starts, it doesn’t work for them” (Councillor)

The reliability of bus services is described as a barrier to bus travel; buses are frequently late or do not show, resulting in a lack of confidence to be able to rely on the bus as a mode of transport. The lower frequency of buses also means that passengers may have long wait times. Journeys are described as slow, particularly in comparison to alternatives such as cars or taxis, resulting in people feeling less inclined to use them. When coupled with the long wait times, the experience of taking the bus was often described as undesirable.

Comments from interviewees:

“…you could wait a half an hour” (Pompey Pensioners)

 “…there was someone who’d been there for 45 minutes and the bus hadn’t turned up, and there was nothing on the real-time information to indicate that. And that person said “I’m not bothering in future, I’ll get a taxi”.” (Councillor)


Whilst some areas of Portsmouth are described as well-serviced, many of those interviewed mention that areas of Portsmouth that are still are not adequately served by buses, this highlights an inconsistency in the bus service. Areas including Moorings Way, Eastern Road, Tipner, and Eastney are identified as poorly serviced, providing residents of these areas with less access to bus services. Furthermore, general directional routes such as between east and west and through central Portsmouth down to East Parade are identified as lacking direct routes.

Comments from interviewees:

“…there are some good bus routes, and there are some which are irregular and unreliable” (Pompey Pensioners)

 “…there are parts of Portsmouth which are very badly served. Tipner is one example, because it’s out on a limb, Eastney is another one” (Councillor)

The lack of direct routes is described as an inconvenience for those considering travelling by bus. Passengers may have to change buses during a single journey to reach their destination, making journeys more complicated and potentially convoluted, especially in comparison to using direct transport like cars. Bus timetables and routes are described as poorly integrated with one another, meaning passengers may have long wait time between buses, further increasing the total time spent travelling.

Comments from interviewees:

“…you can live in quite a built-up area, but because you’ve only got one route over here and one route over there and nothing in the middle, you’re not being well-served” (Councillor)

 “…it is a bit around the houses in terms of the routing, but I use it quite often. Some of our members coming from outside of town say there is a lack of direct bus routes, you have to change buses perhaps 2 or 3 times” (Pompey Pensioners)


The experience of using buses in the city is also identified as a potential barrier to bus use. Many of those interviewed mention that the attitude and behaviour of bus drivers could potentially discourage people from using buses again. They are described as being rude, unfriendly or unhelpful at times, providing poor customer service, and negatively impacting the experience of using the bus. They are on occasion described as not accessibility aware, posing greater issues for those needing additional assistance and support to use the bus.

Comments from interviewees:

“…some of the drivers can be rude, and you only need to get upset once for the rider to then not go again” (Councillor)

 “…it was somebody who works with disabled people, people with learning difficulties, apparently these people had been complaining how difficult they found it using buses because some of the drivers were really rude and unhelpful towards them.” (Councillor)

In comparison to other modes of transport, particularly driving their own car, the experience of using the bus is described as undesirable. The experience of travelling by car, in particular, was described as more enjoyable and attractive as users have their own space, do not have to interact with other people and are able to sit down, which is not always guaranteed on the bus.

Comments from interviewees:

“Somebody in a car is in their own space, listening to their own stuff, they don’t have to talk to people, they don’t have to stand, and its popular. So how do you get people to choose not to do that and get a bus instead?” (Councillor)

Psychological Barriers

When considering barriers which may prevent or discourage people from using the bus, some psychological barriers are identified. It is highlighted that people who do not regularly take the bus, and are not familiar with bus travel, may not know exactly how taking the bus works. This is described as being potentially anxiety-inducing for some; concerns could range from how to pay, where to wait, and how and where to get off the bus. The unfamiliar and worrisome nature of bus travel to newer users may decrease the likelihood that they will travel by bus.

Comments from interviewees:

“I did have a little bit of anxiety about ‘what happens now?’ Do I buy a ticket online? Can I use card, can I use cash, do I have to use card? Do I pay the driver when I get on? How does this work? So I do think that’s one of the barriers to people using it” (Councillor)

Some of those interviewed highlight that there may be a stigma attached to travelling by bus, which may it turn discourage people from choosing this mode of transport over others. A gender-disparity in attitudes towards using the bus is mentioned; men may not see bus travel as ‘for them’, meaning they are potentially more reluctant to use the bus compared to driving or travelling by train, for example.

Comments from interviewees:

“…there’s an interesting cultural thing between buses and trains, that actually sometimes people are more reluctant, there’s a kind of perception about a bus being not the greatest way to travel” (Councillor)

“Blokes are happy to be seen on a bike, on a scooter, in a car, but not on a bus” (Councillor)