Council leaders have warned that the continuing decline in bus use could lead to increased congestion and poorer air quality as new figures show that the number of local journeys fell across Great Britain to the lowest level for a decade.
Statistics published by the Department for Transport show that in 2016/17 the number of bus passenger journeys in Great Britain (4,931 million) fell below five billion for the first time since 2006/07.
The LGA wants more help from central government
There were 4,438 million bus passenger journeys in England in 2016/17, which was again the lowest figure since 2006/07, and 100 million journeys in Wales, which was the lowest level since the methodology changed in 2004/05.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils across England and Wales, warned that ‘cherished’ bus services and routes will remain under threat unless councils are given the funding to protect them.
It said the continued decline in passenger journeys could have an impact on increased congestion and poorer air quality in local communities as well as leaving those who rely on the bus network unsupported.
Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s transport spokesman, 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.
‘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. Faced with significant funding pressures, many across the country are being forced into taking difficult decisions to scale back services and review subsidised routes.’
The LGA said the new figures show that overall there were more than 80 million fewer journeys across England for the year ending December 2017 in comparison to the previous year - a decrease of 1.8%.