Funding halves for supported bus services

Funding for supported buses has been halved in the last eight years, leaving many parts of England and Wales without public transport, according to a new report released by the Campaign for Better Transport.

The Buses in Crisis report reveals that local authority bus budgets in England and Wales were cut by £20.5m last year - the eighth year in a row budgets have been cut.

Since 2010/11, supported bus budgets in England and Wales have been cut by £182 million - a 45 per cent reduction.

The latest cuts in funding have meant 199 routes were altered or completely withdrawn last year, with a total of over three thousand routes (3,347) altered, reduced or withdrawn in the last eight years.

Steve Chambers, Campaign for Better Transport’s public transport campaigner, said: “Our latest report confirms that the slow death of the supported bus continues, with local authority bus budgets suffering yet another cut this year.

The resulting cuts to services mean many people no longer have access to public transport, with rural areas hit especially hard.

The loss of a bus service had huge implications, said Mr Chambers.

It could prevent people accessing jobs and education; have an adverse effect on the local economy with people prevented from getting to shops and businesses; amd affect people's physical health and mental well-being.

It also had an inevitable effect on congestion and air pollution as more cars jammed up roads.

The recent Buses Services Act does have the potential to improve local buses, but it’s not enough on its own, said Mr Chambers.

The government must wake up to the crisis hitting local buses before it's too late. We want to see a proper national strategy for buses backed up by funding, like those that already exist for all other modes of transport.

Only when we treat what is happening to buses as a national crisis, rather than a local one, will we start to reverse their decline.

Key findings from the report suggest:

  • More than £20 million (£20,211,586) cut from supported bus services in England last year - a 9% reduction on the previous year
  • 188 bus services in England were reduced, altered or withdrawn last year
  • 3,088 bus services in England have been reduced, altered or withdrawn since 2010-11
  • 64 per cent of English local authorities reduced or spent nothing on supported bus services last year

The Campaign for Better Transport is calling on the government to introduce a National Investment Strategy for Buses and Coaches, backed up with proper long-term funding, like those that already exist for roads, railways, cycling, walking and other modes.

It also wants the government to come up with new and smarter funding for buses, and to join up the different public sector transport contracts (education, health, social services etc.) in a 'total transport' approach.

The report also recommends that local authorities should use the powers in the new Bus Services Act, and urges the Government to encourage and support them to do so.

Mr Chambers added: “Ultimately, policies and funding need to ensure people have access to an affordable and reliable bus network, wherever they live, so they can get access to the jobs, education, health and other services they need.”


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