Campaigners have called for councils across the country to be given London-style bus powers, despite new figures showing bus use in London falling twice as fast as the rest of England.
Department for Transport (DfT) quarterly statistics for local bus use and fares in Great Britain show that for the year ending in June, there were 4.51 billion local bus passenger journeys in England, a 2.7% decrease on the previous year and a slight fall in the 4.53 billion journeys in the year to March.
The fall was mainly driven by a 3.6% decline in London, with bus use in England outside London, falling by 1.8% over the same period. There are more bus journeys in London than in the rest of England.
Comparing passenger journeys for April to June 2016 to the same quarter last year, there was a 1.8% decrease in England while bus use in London decreased by 3.0%. Journeys in England outside London decreased by only 0.6%.
In the same period, bus use decreased in Scotland but increased slightly in Wales.
However, the Campaign for Better Transport (CfBT) said that in the last ten years bus journeys in England (excluding London) have declined by 96 million while journeys in London have increased by more than 75 million.
Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner at CfBT, said: ‘These new bus statistics show the contrast between London, which has seen a steady growth in bus passenger numbers, and the rest of the country where they're largely in decline. Bus services are the threads that stitch together our communities and these statistics show in black and white that many areas are suffering cut backs.
‘We need the Bus Services Bill currently going through Parliament to give local authorities across the country powers like London's to improve services and grow passenger numbers. That means powers to plan services better and a national Bus and Coach Investment Strategy equivalent to the ones that road and rail have.’
The DfT’s local bus fares index for England increased by 1.6% in over the year, equivalent to the rise in the retail prices index inflation measure.
Fares rose by 1.2% in London, 1.5% in metropolitan areas, and 2.0% in non-metropolitan areas and by 3.1% in Scotland and 0.8% in Wales.
On Monday, London mayor Sadiq Khan’s new ‘Hopper’ bus and tram fare launched, allowing passengers buying a £1.50 single ticket a free second journey within one hour of the first.
Cllr Julian Bell, London Councils executive member for transport and environment, said the fare was ‘great news for Londoners and will mean 30m journeys that would otherwise have cost £1.50 will be free every year’.