Campaign for Better Transport, which advocates for improvements to transport services across England and Wales, has called on the UK government to do more to support local bus services after figures revealed ‘a decade of decline’.
The Department for Transport (DfT) published its annual bus statistics for the year ending March 2022, which showed a 19% decline in vehicle miles and a 39% decrease in passenger journeys across Britain since 2011.
The charity pointed out that the figures show how buses have struggled to recover from the impact of the pandemic, with passenger journeys experiencing drops of 30% in England, 35% in Scotland and 42% in Wales.
Norman Baker, director of external affairs, Campaign for Better Transport, said: “It’s been almost two years since the government published its strategy to expand and improve bus services, yet [these] figures reveal a decade of decline with many communities effectively cut off from the public transport network.
“The government has supported bus services through the pandemic, but all that good work will be wasted if it walks away now.
“To avoid buses tumbling over a funding cliff edge at the end of March, a robust scheme of financial support must be put in place with ring-fenced funding for local authorities so they can work with bus operators to support services and an extension of the £2 bus fare cap to help boost passenger numbers.”
Recovery funding for bus services from the UK government is set to run out at the end of March 2023, at the same time as the ongoing £2 bus fare cap incentive. As a result, the charity has called for an extension of financial support to local services.
Specifically, the charity wants to see:
- A three-month extension of the £2 bus fare cap which ends on 31 March
- All local authority bus funding ring-fenced
- The DfT to be responsible for all local authority bus funding, rather than shared with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
- The establishment of a single long-term funding pot for buses, rather than the current competitive funding system.