Transport secretary Chris Grayling has suggested that local buses could be replaced by ‘Uber-style’ rides, after bus use in England fell to its lowest level in a decade.
The Guardian reported that the transport secretary made his comments in a meeting in October with Local Government Association chairman Lord Porter and Martin Tett, the chair of its transport board.
Asked about cuts to funding for buses, Mr Grayling ‘suggested that the nature of bus provision is likely to change over the coming years, with more Uber-style, demand-led services replacing traditional services’, according to the notes of the meeting.
Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said: ‘For many people, especially the young and the elderly, those living in rural areas and those who do not own a car, bus services are a lifeline.
‘But rather than addressing the buses crisis, Chris Grayling’s solution is to say: let them take taxis’.
The Annual bus statistics: England 2016/17, published by the Department for Transport, show that the number of local bus passenger journeys in England fell by 70 million (1.5%) to 4.44 billion in the year ending March 2017.
The number of journeys in England outside London declined by 0.8%, continuing the decline since 2008/09, and is now 1.2% lower than in the year ending March 2005. In London, bus use decreased by 2.3% in the latest year but remains 12.4% higher than in the year ending March 2007.
Cllr Tett said: ‘It is hugely concerning to see such a steady decrease in bus journeys. Councils know how important buses are for their residents and local economies and are desperate to protect them.'
But he added: ‘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.’