Bus company East Yorkshire is increasing its efforts in the fight against loneliness and social isolation with the launch of a new “chatty bus” campaign, encouraging passengers to talk to someone new on the bus.
The campaign kicks off on the 29th January with activity taking place in Hull, the East Riding and North Yorkshire.
On the day, selected journeys will be dedicated chatty bus services – including a mid-morning Service 121 Hull to Bridlington, a Service 12 from Bridlington to Scarborough, an early afternoon Scarborough town bus and many buses in the Hull area.
These services will have chatty bus ambassadors on board – including East Yorkshire staff and more than 50 City of Culture volunteers – who will be distributing ‘happy to chat’ badges to interested passengers and raising awareness of the problems of loneliness.
Chatty buses will also be found in Brighton, Horsham, Newcastle, Plymouth, Oxford and Eastleigh, as Go-Ahead Group local bus operators across the country raise awareness of social isolation.
Prime Minister Theresa May has called loneliness “one of the greatest public health challenges of our time” and the launch follows research which shows that three in 10 Britons go at least one day a week without speaking to anyone close to them.
However, buses can provide a vital lifeline for many of those living in isolation. A third (33 per cent) of Britons admit that they deliberately catch the bus to have some human contact.
What’s more, two-thirds of bus users also say that services create strong community ties, and eight out of 10 know someone who depends on the bus.
And the problem is not just one affecting the UK’s older generation, with 83 per cent of younger people admitting they are affected by loneliness. A recent survey by the Young Women’s Trust showed that one in four 18 – 30-year-olds feel isolated.
Go-Ahead Group chief executive David Brown said: “The launch of our chatty bus campaign is the first step we are taking to encourage people to reach out to those around them. Loneliness is a scourge of modern society and can have the same impact on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
“We know how important buses are in the daily lives of many people but knowing that 33% of people catch the bus to have some human contact further proves this.”
“Reliable, clean and friendly services create social cohesion, and thanks to the positive impact of a sociable bus journey, funding for these services can cut spending needed elsewhere in the system.”
Laura Alcock-Ferguson, Executive Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “A bus service can make the difference between someone being able to see friends and family – or going for days or weeks in isolation. The chatty bus service takes things a step further by using the space on the bus as a place for connections to thrive. We welcome Go-Ahead’s work and want all bus users to take part.”
Go-Ahead has also signed the Government’s Employers’ Pledge, which commits firms to work to improve social connections and tackle loneliness at all levels.