Bus travel reaches 12-year low amid fares hike and funding decline

Public transport campaigners have warned that “buses are in crisis” after new analysis showed journeys are at a 12-year low.

Latest Department for Transport figures show 1.2 billion local bus journeys were made between April and June in Britain.

This represents a 10% decrease since the peak of 1.33 billion between July and September 2008.

Demand for bus travel has not been this low since the beginning of 2006, according to Press Association analysis.

The 10% reduction in journeys since the summer of 2008 has coincided with a 55% increase in average fares.

A recent study by the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) found that funding for supported buses has almost halved in the last eight years, leaving many areas without public transport.

Local authority bus budgets in England and Wales were slashed by £20.5 million last year – the eighth consecutive annual cut.

CBT chief executive Darren Shirley urged the Government to use its October 29 Budget to halt the “trend of cutting support” for buses.

He said: “The falling number of passengers taking the bus is a consequence of continued cuts in funding to support services.

“Nationally and locally this is resulting in fewer services and higher fares.

“The statistics back up what our research has been showing for years: that buses are in crisis.

“They are vital for the economy and the environment but year-on-year, people – especially in rural areas – are losing their bus service, making it difficult to access jobs, education and other essential public services.”

Councillor Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, said: “It is hugely concerning to see such a steady decrease in bus journeys.

“It’s nearly impossible for councils to keep subsidising free travel while having to find billions of pounds worth of savings and protect other vital services like caring for the elderly, filling potholes and collecting bins.

“The way the concessionary travel scheme is funded by Whitehall has not kept up with growing demand and cost. By giving councils control over the Bus Service Operators’ Grant, and properly funding the free bus pass schemes the Government could help us support and maintain our essential bus services, reduce congestion and protect vital routes.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We recognise that buses are vital in connecting people, homes and businesses, and that’s why we have given local councils extra powers to work in partnership with bus companies to improve the services passengers expect.

“This is on top of the public funding provided to bus operators and councils to fund services.

“While local authorities are best placed to decide how to provide supported bus services, we provide around £250 million every year to support bus services and a further £1 billion to support older and disabled people using the free bus pass scheme, benefiting people up and down the country.”

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