Labour has called for a 'long-term strategy' for bus funding to halt the decline in bus use, after mileage on council-subsidised bus services outside London fell by 12.3%.
Department for Transport (DfT) statistics on local bus passenger journeys in England in the year to March 2016 reported a 2.6% decrease to 4.53 billion, compared to the previous year. Officials previously reported a 2.5% fall on the same year. Bus patronage fell again in the following quarter.
Subsidised bus services in rural areas have been cut
Bus mileage in England decreased by 2.0% over the year. Officials said this was ‘largely due to a 12.3% decrease in mileage on local authority supported services in England outside London’.
Labour shadow local transport minister Daniel Zeichner said: ‘This news underlines the huge impact Tory cuts have had on local bus services.
‘Buses are used more often by those from low income backgrounds, and services supported by local authorities are often socially necessary. They serve those in more isolated areas, connecting them to jobs, schools and the community.
‘The Government needs to form a long-term, logical strategy for bus funding. How woefully ironic that they have kept the bus pass, but axed the bus.’
The Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT) said mileage on supported bus routes in non-metropolitan areas was down 40% in 10 years.
CfBT public transport campaigner Lianna Etkind said it was crucial that the Bus Services Bill currently going through Parliament gives the full range of powers, backed by funding, to all authorities.
She said: ‘Without support, more villages and towns risk being isolated by cuts to bus services. We cannot leave people in rural areas cut off from jobs, healthcare or friends and family. We are calling for a National Bus Strategy alongside the Bus Services Bill, so that operators and local authorities alike can have the long-term reassurance that they need to grow and develop their bus services.’
Last week an amendment to the Bill giving franchising powers to councils across England without the need to seek ministerial approval was passed in the House of Lords, against Government wishes.
It remains unclear whether ministers will seek to overturn the amendment.