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‘Transport deserts' risk as new research reveals bus funding crisis: better funding and Bus Services Bill powers needed to reverse decline

13 March 2017

New research out today reveals supported bus services have been hit hard by funding cuts with over 500 routes completely withdrawn or reduced across England and Wales in 2016/17.

The Buses in Crisis research by Campaign for Better Transport  shows that nearly £30 million has been cut from local authority supported bus funding in the last financial year, an 11 per cent reduction in England and 7 per cent in Wales, compared  to 2015/16.  

The research also shows that since 2010 over £100 million, 33 per cent, has been cut from local authority bus funding and 2,900 bus services have suffered cut backs and withdrawals resulting in huge disruptions for communities. 

Lianna Etkind, Public Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport said:

“As our research shows, buses across the country have been hit hard by funding cuts. Year on year we are seeing more bus services lost, with some local authorities stopping supporting buses altogether. These cuts come on the top of cuts to school transport and the underfunding of free pensioner travel; together these threaten the viability of whole bus networks and will lead to ‘transport deserts’ in some rural and suburban areas where there is no public transport at all.

"This decline is not inevitable though. With the Bus Services Bill currently going through Parliament, there is hope that powers in the bill will help local authorities to better plan and set standards for their bus networks, improving people's access to jobs, services and education. We urge the Government to ensure that all local authorities have the full range of powers at their disposal; and to put in place a plan to ensure buses have the funding they need. The Government needs to understand the vital role buses play in the economy, the environment and to wider society and to commit to protecting bus services, not just in towns and cities but in rural areas as well.”

Some key findings from The ‘Buses in Crisis’ research:

- 66 per cent of local authorities have reduced their spend on supported bus provision this year

- 10 councils around England and Wales already had no supported bus services at all as of 2016/17, these being Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees, Darlington,Cumbria, Stoke on Trent, Luton, Southend on Sea, Cardiff,  Neath Port Talbot, Wrexham

- An additional 4 councils, Middlesborough, Lancashire, Isle of Wight and Torbay Borough have made 100 per cent cuts to bus subsidies in the financial year 2016/17

- Lancashire County Council initiated the biggest cut this year, officially cutting their entire bus support budget, £7 million, while maintaining £2 million of Community Transport budget

- The biggest proportional cuts following Lancashire are Central Bedfordshire, 64.48 per cent, Derbyshire, 54.72 per cent and Portsmouth City, 54.5 per cent

- The North West is the region that has seen the highest bus cuts this year, with an average reduction in bus spending of 15 per cent.



For further information please contact:

Richard Watkins, Press Officer, at Campaign for Better Transport on 020 7566 6494 / 07984 773 468 or richard.watkins@bettertransport.org.uk  

Notes to Editors

- Our Buses in Crisis research is based on Freedom of Information requests to all 110 local transport authorities across England and Wales. Our analysis is based on the responses received and we have not had the resources or time to verify each individual response.

- Supported buses are services that are subsidised by local authorities because they are not provided by commercial bus companies. They serve communities where no alternative route exists, meaning that any cut or alteration can often have a huge impact on residents and local economies. They also provide services in evenings and at weekends when otherwise services would cease. These subsidised or supported services represent 22 per cent of bus provision in England. This percentage varies considerably across the country, ranging from just 5 per cent in some urban areas to almost 100 per cent in some rural areas

- The Bus Services Bill will give local authorities new powers including the ability to introduce new forms of partnership schemes and to franchise their bus services, as London does. See https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/bus-services-bill-overview 

- Read our report here - School Transport Matters. The report is based on responses from a survey sent to all local authorities in the UK. The responding local authorities represent about 40 per cent of the total school population and 40 per cent of the overall expenditure nationally on school transport. Responses were received from all types of authority - London Boroughs, Scottish authorities, Welsh councils, the Northern Ireland Education Authority, English unitary and metropolitan authorities and two thirds of the English shire authorities, which are the main spenders/providers of home to school transport.

Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).