More than 3,000 bus routes have been altered, reduced or withdrawn during the last eight years as council funding has almost halved, a report has found.
Campaign for Better Transport on Monday detailed how council funding had been cut by £182m - 45% - since 2010, as it urged the Government to “wake up to the crisis hitting local buses before it’s too late”.
The latest cuts, £20.5m last year, have meant 199 routes were altered or completely withdrawn, the campaign’s Buses In Crisis report said, leaving many parts of the country without public transport.
Since 2010, 3,347 routes have been altered, reduced or withdrawn, Campaign for Better Transport said.
Steve Chambers, the group’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.”
Chambers said the loss of a bus service has “huge implications”.
He said the cuts would have an adverse effect on the local economy, with people prevented from getting to shops and businesses, affecting people’s mental and physical health too.
Chambers said 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. l. 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:
- More than £20m 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- 188 bus services in England were reduced, altered or withdrawn last year, 3,088 bus services in England have been reduced, altered or withdrawn since 2010-11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% of English local authorities reduced or spent nothing on supported bus services last year
- £211,819 cut from supported bus services in Wales last year - a 1% reduction on the previous year; 259 bus services in Wales have been reduced, altered or withdrawn since 2010-11 - 82% of Welsh local authorities reduced or spent nothing on supported bus services last year
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.
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.”