Levelling up 'not working' as buses see long-term decline


Campaigners are calling on ministers to overhaul bus funding to local authorities, including giving sole responsibility to the Department for Transport (DfT), after new statistics showed a ‘decade of decline’.

The DfT’s annual bus statistics for the year ending March 2022, show that the number of local bus passenger journeys in England rose by 1.3 billion (79.6%) to 2.8 billion over the year.

This was however far lower than two years ago when there were 4.1 billion passenger journeys in the year ending March 2020. Officials pointed out that the two most recent years were affected by restrictions in response to the Covid pandemic.

Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT) said the statistics reveal a picture of long-term decline, with a 19% decrease in bus vehicle miles and a 39% drop in passenger journeys in Great Britain in the decade between 2011-12 and 2021-22.

Local bus passenger journeys in England, financial years ending 2005 to 2022

It pointed out that Covid recovery funding is set to finish at the end of March, at the same time as the current £2 bus fare cap incentive.

Spokesperson Norman Baker said: ‘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.’

CfBT said that to prevent further cuts, boost passenger numbers and help improve services in the long term, there should be one long-term funding pot for buses, ‘rather than the current fragmented and competitive system of funding which disadvantages some areas of the country’.

It added that all local authority bus funding should be the responsibility of the DfT, rather than shared with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

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