Today we have published our latest ‘Buses in Crisis’ report focussing on local authority funded bus services. Over the last few weeks we have been sending and collating freedom of information requests to 110 local authorities in England and Wales.
The objective of this report is to highlight exactly what is happening to local authority supported bus services and the results we have found are shocking.
Since 2010 over £78 million has been cut from local authority supported funding in England and Wales. A 25 per cent reduction overall that has resulted in over 2,400 bus services being cut, altered or withdrawn completely
In the last year alone 63 per cent of local authorities in England and Wales have cut funding for buses, whilst 44 per cent have removed or withdrawn services. Local authority funding for supported bus services has fallen by £22.6 million, the worst year for cuts to buses since 2010.
Our report is released at a critical time when there are huge pressures on local authority funding for buses but also the direct threat of cuts to central Government funding for buses in the Comprehensive Spending Review on 25 November. The Chancellor George Osborne is looking very closely at the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) as part of the 30 per cent reduction to the Department for Transport’s (DFT) budget. If cuts are made to BSOG then we could see whole networks of buses across the country disappear completely.
The DfT’s annual bus statistics have shown that over the last decade in England outside of London, local authority supported bus services mileage has decreased by 55 million miles, and mileage on commercial services has not compensated for this loss rising by 13 million miles in the same time frame. The percentage of bus mileage on supported services has decreased from 24 per cent in 2009-10 to 17 per cent in 2014-15.
This year also marks the thirtieth anniversary since the 1985 Transport Act which de-regulated bus services. Since then local bus passenger journeys made outside of London have decreased by 37 per cent. More than half of all bus passenger journeys made in England in 2014-15 occurred in London which has seen a 105 per cent increase in bus use since 1985.
Behind all the statistics and facts and figures, all of these cuts have a very real human impact and we at Campaign for Better Transport hear from very distressed bus users every single week worried sick about threats to their lifeline bus service. The cuts really are starting to bite and the social, economic and environmental impacts loom large over England and Wales. Only last week we saw one of the wealthiest local authorities, Oxfordshire County Council, announce that they would be cutting all funding for local buses. If this can happen in Oxfordshire, the Prime Minister’s home county, then is anywhere safe?
So what is to be done? Well our report spells out some urgent but practical recommendations for Government to adopt; which include introducing a ‘Connectivity Fund’ which should be established by bringing together the existing BSOG fund (around £230 million in 2014-15) with additional ‘top slicing’ from 11 other government departments that benefit from having good bus networks including the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Health, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Education, into a ring-fenced pot for local government to support bus services.
Other recommendations include establishing the ‘Total Transport’ pilots as a fully funded Government programme and ensuring the Buses Bill, due in January, delivers the best reforms possible for passengers.
George Osborne and the Government have a simple choice: go for further cuts in bus funding, with all the social and economic damage these will cause, OR recognise the vitally important role buses play for millions of people every single day and ensure they have the funding they need and deserve. It really is that simple.
Without urgent action the future of our cherished local bus services is uncertain and bleak. What is certain however is that Campaign for Better Transport will not give up fighting for lifeline bus services. We will continue to mobilise and empower local campaigners and communities to come together and fight together for their everyday transport, because buses must have and will have a bright future ahead.
If you’ve not done so already please email George Osborne and tell him not cut the Bus Service Operators Grant in the Spending Review on 25 November.