‘Invest in bus services to hit net zero’

Investment in bus services is urgently needed if councils are to reduce car journeys, lower carbon emissions and help the UK work towards its net zero goal by 2050 or earlier.

Just doubling the average occupancy of buses could mean up to 12 fewer car journeys are required for every bus journey, according to the LGA.

The number of local bus passenger journeys in England in 2020/21 fell significantly by 2.5 billion or 61 per cent, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but even since 2004/05, bus mileage has declined by 34 per cent in England outside London.

The LGA is calling on the Government to fully fund the concessionary fares scheme, which provides free, off-peak travel for elderly and disabled residents. 

The scheme is currently underfunded by £700 million a year, leaving councils having to reduce spending on discretionary concessionary fares and wider supported bus services to plug this gap.

Buses are the cornerstone of the Government’s future plans to decarbonise the way we travel, and additional funding for the Zero Emission Bus Regional Areas (ZEBRA) scheme was announced in the Spending Review, bringing the total to £270 million in 2021/22. 

By plugging the concessionary fares funding gap, councils would have even greater means to invest in their existing schemes and pave the way to decarbonise fleets.

Cllr David Renard, LGA Transport Spokesperson, said: “Public transport, along with cycling and walking, is going to be key as we look to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner, but with a drop of more than 60 per cent in bus journeys, and car journeys returning back to their pre-pandemic peak, it is clear that more work has to be done to encourage less carbon-intensive travel across the country.”

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