Bradford’s free city bus: everything you ever wanted to know

The Bradford Free City Bus was launched in September 2008 by Metro and Bradford Metropolitan District Council.

The bus enables many of our students to reach the College free of charge and is therefore very important to helping us provide education opportunities that are accessible to people on a low income, or from  low income families. If it is used by significant numbers of people who might otherwise travel by car, it also helps reduce carbon emissions.

The Free City Bus that stops at Bradford College.

The Free City Bus that stops at Bradford College.

There are three free Bradford buses travelling a single circular route which includes Bradford College as one of the stops. They travel at a 10 minute frequency between 7am and 7pm on a weekday and 8am to 5.30pm on a Saturday. (Details of the route here.)

The following facts and figures have been kindly provided by Neil Moore, Senior Transport Planner, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, and Pam Sheldon of Bradford College:


  • The service costs around £270,000 a year to operate.
  • Funding is split between Bradford Council and Metro.
  • These costs are offset by sponsorship of the service which cover approx 10% of the costs. Currently Bradford College and Bradford University sponsor the service.
  • The cost to Bradford College to sponsor the bus is £12,500 per annum and £2,500 for signage to the side of a bus.
  • Sovereign Healthcare and Grand Central (rail operator) have also sponsored the service in the past.
  • The council recently guaranteed to fund the Free City Bus until the end of March 2014.
  • Due to cuts in local government grants funding for the service beyond this date is uncertain.

Campaign to keep the bus going

  • In February 2011 the Council indicated that it wanted the service to end in April 2011 due to budgetary pressures.
  • Following a campaign organised by Bradford College and the University the Council had a change of heart.
  • The campaign included a petition with 440 signatures.

History and targets
The Free City Bus was initially launched on a 6 month trial. It had to exceed a number of targets before the Council committed to the service on a permanent basis:

Patronage The target was 4,170 passengers per week (actual = 17,558)
Modal Shift The number of passengers who would have used their car to make the journey instead if the service was not running. Target was 2% of users (actual = 2% which is the equivalent of reducing car tips by 351 in a typical week)
Mobility The service should carry a higher proportion of mobility impaired passengers than a typical bus service. The target was 9% of users (actual = 14%)
Trip generation The number of passengers who would not have made the journey if the service was not running. This target was set at 1% of users (actual = 3% or an extra 526 trips into the city centre).

Therefore the trial comfortably exceeded it’s targets.

User Demographics (2010 survey)
54.8% Female, 40.2% Male
Age groups 0.4% under 16, 19.5% were 16-19, 43.9% were 20-39, 17.5% were 40-59, 16% in range 60+
Reason for using the service T get to work 18.4%, Education 27.3%, Leisure/recreation 6.2%, Shopping 34.1%, other 14%
Feedback 46% rate the service excellent, 49% good, 1% poor, 4% no response

Usage (2012)
Most popular boarding stops

Weekday –  Oastler Centre (27%), University (21%), Interchange (17%)
Saturday – Oastler Centre (31%), University (14%), Interchange (13%)
Most popular alighting stops
Weekday –  Interchange (29%), University (18%), Market Street (12%)
Saturday – Oastler Centre (21%), Interchange (20%), Forster Sq rail stn (14%)

Environmental impact (from Ethical Consumer 2008)
Well-used buses help reduce carbon emissions:

Means of transport Fuel efficiency (km per litre) CO2 emissions per km
Bicycle n/a 0
Bus (well-used service) 28-50kpl per passenger 80-45g
Rail (normal suburban) 18-52kpl per passenger 130-45g
Fuel-efficient car 18-23kpl 130-100g
Rail (high speed, few stops) 14-28kpl per passenger 165-80g
Average car 10-16kpl 260-145g
Air (long haul) 8-12kpl per passenger 330-210g
Large cars, SUVs etc 5-9kpl 400-250g
Air (short haul) 4-8kpl per passenger 460-300g

Source: Aviation Environmental Federation,

Useful links: The Campaign for Better Transport


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