Bus Service Cuts Highlighted

The Campaign for Better Transport has highlighted in a recent report that support funding for bus services is now around £400M lower than it was 10 years ago, in real terms. Spending by government has reduced by £234M and local authority funding is now £163M lower. The group says that this has led to the loss or reduction of around 3,000 bus services in England.

The group also says that this has led to a decline in bus patronage by around 6.6% over the last decade. Around 4.8BN journeys were made by bus in the last year, around half of these being in London. 60% of journeys on public transport are made by bus but the number of journeys has been gradually declining over the years. Around 8.6BN journeys were made in 1970.

The implications for the travelling public are significant. The young, elderly and people from poorer backgrounds are those most likely to be adversely affected by service cuts and reductions. Darren Shirley from the Campaign for Better Transport said: “Reductions in funding to support bus services has consequences. It leads to isolation and social exclusion and hinders access to employment, education and training as people find it more difficult and costly to travel.”

The government has promised a new national bus strategy to reverse the trend of decline, but this comes at a time when its own legislation around bus franchising has caused considerable uncertainty amongst bus operators. Coupled with stricter emissions legislation, this has led to an almost perfect storm for bus operators. How can operators be expected to plan for the future if they don’t know whether their services might be “confiscated” (without compensation) in the near term. This also has implications for the bus building industry.

What is needed is a clear, coherent, properly funded bus strategy which is integrated with other forms of transport. Given Westminster’s track record of fuddled legislation in this area, this is something that the national government is unlikely to be able to deliver. It is probably another area of policy that would be better left to a devolved Yorkshire regional administration.

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