13 December 2013: This week we have published our annual research into supported bus services across England and Wales. Our ‘Buses in Crisis’ report has found that 46 per cent of local authorities have reduced their support for buses in 2013-14 with a number threatening to remove all support in the next financial year.
Supported buses are services that are subsidised by local authorities because they are not provided by commercial bus companies. They account for between 20-22 per cent of bus services across England and Wales and serve communities where no alternative route exists, meaning that any cut or alteration can often have a huge impact on residents and local economies.
In the last year there have been £17m of cuts in the budget for supported buses in England, resulting in 147 service cuts or withdrawals, whilst in Wales, there were 25 service cuts or withdrawals.
Our research also shows that 2014-15 will be a very difficult year for bus services with proposals to cut £48m in England, with the likelihood of more to come. Many local authorities have deferred any cuts to the next financial year to allow for the legal process of public consultations to be carried out and there are worrying reports of local authorities proposing to cut all, or the majority, of their supported bus services.
Buses are the most commonly used mode of public transport, with more people commuting to work by bus than any other mode of public transport combined. They make a huge difference to the economy, the environment and to wider society and it would be a disaster if this managed decline is allowed to continue and whole networks were allowed to disappear.
It is clear that a new approach is needed for buses and the report suggests a number of ways this could be achieved. We recognise that local authorities are under severe financial pressure and this report is not about shaming them, but merely to paint a clear picture as to what is happening to buses in England and Wales. Politicians in Westminster need to understand how important buses are and provide them with the funding they need and deserve to keep our economy moving.