Bus journeys hit 10-year low

Local buses are travelling nearly 150 million fewer miles than they were 10 years ago, dropping to their lowest level since the mid-1980s, according to new LGA analysis.

Annual figures reveal that buses in England travelled a distance of 1.18 billion miles in 2018/19 – down from 1.33 billion in 2008/09.

The last time bus travel was lower was in 1986/87. Bus passenger journeys have also dropped by 318 million between 2008/09 and 2018/19.

The LGA says an increase in fares – up 71 per cent in real terms since 2005 – and a £700 million annual funding gap for the concessionary fares scheme are contributing to the reduction in services and bus usage.

Unless this funding gap is addressed, nearly half of all bus routes in England that currently receive partial or complete subsidies from councils will remain at risk.

Councils want to work with the Government to protect local bus services, which can be a lifeline for vulnerable residents, and to ‘level up’ bus usage across the regions. Figures show that 25 per cent of overall bus mileage is in London.

The LGA is calling on the Government to use March’s Budget to hand all councils oversight of local bus services so they can maintain and improve them, and to fund the concessionary fares scheme fully.

Cllr David Renard, the LGA’s Transport Spokesman, said: “The funding gap faced by councils in providing the concessionary fare scheme is severely impacting their ability to step in and prop up bus routes that are otherwise at risk of ending altogether.

“Councils want to work with the Government to make sure every community in all areas of the country is able to access a local bus service.”

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