24 January 2014
Public anger is rising after a string of Local Authorities announced further big cuts to bus funding. Transport authorities including Greater Manchester, North Yorkshire, Cumbria, Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire are intending to wipe more than £15m from bus budgets in a move that has generated well over 10,000 responses from concerned members of the public.
Martin Abrams, Public Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport said
"Local authorities are making ever deeper cuts to bus funding. There is real public anger about the large number of services under threat,leaving many thousands without vital transport links. We need immediate action from Central Government to protect services and stop networks disappearing from April.”
Campaign for Better Transport has published a new interactive online map detailing the cuts to support for buses across England and Wales, together with contact details for local campaigns. The map will be updated regularly to give an accurate picture of cuts affecting bus services.
Local authorities are in the process of agreeing budgets for 2014/15. Among those who have already announced their plans to cut bus services are:
- Greater Manchester - On 22 January, Transport for Greater Manchester announced it is cutting £7.1m from its support for buses (including school buses) for 2014/15.
- Worcestershire County Council – There has been widespread public anger over a plan to remove all £3m funding for bus services from April 2014. A consultation which closed on 17 January attracted 8,500 responses.
- North Yorkshire County Council – On 21 January, the council announced plans to cut £2m from support for buses this year, with more to come next year. There has been significant opposition to the plans, which are the outcome of a consultation which proposed cuts of £1.1m.
- Cumbria County Council - A consultation closed on 20 January into plans to cut the council's entire £1.9m budget for supported buses services. Local MP, Rory Stewart has vocally opposed the plans.
- Dorset County Council - The council conducted a public consultation into cutting £850,000 from its supported bus budget. There was widespread public hostility to the plans with 1,200 people responding to the consultation.
- Essex County Council - The council has yet to make public the outcome of a consultation into plans to cut £2.5 million from its supported bus budget. The consultation is understood to have received in the region of 2000 responses.
- Nottinghamshire County Council - The council has announced proposals to cut £1.8m from supported bus budgets from August 2014.The outcome of the consultation will be made public in February.
- The West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority - Centro is proposing to cut 25 per cent of its discretionary budget by 2015. This equates to an overall £14m reduction in spending with an unconfirmed amount cut from its supported bus budgets.
- Welsh Assembly - The Cardiff assembly is proposing to reduce the concessionary fare reimbursement for bus operators from 74 per cent of the average fare to 46 per cent from 1 April 2014.
Campaign for Better Transport has called on central Government to take action to protect bus services:
- Short-term funding to protect services: Creation of a fighting-fund, accessible to local authorities, to protect key bus services in the short term.
- Introduce minimum access standards: There should be agreed minimum standards of access by public transport to facilities such as hospitals, colleges and areas of employment. A standard could be set by central government and implemented by local government through access plans, offering ‘travel assurance’.
- A new approach to funding: Currently, the large majority of support for buses comes from local authorities and the Department for Transport. However, buses make an important contribution to the objectives of a number of other departments including Work and Pensions, Health and Education. In future, access to key facilities and services should be paid for by pooled funding from across those departments that benefit from good bus services. This would be ring-fenced and distributed to local transport authorities.
- Plan long term investment: Long term investment plans for buses would give the industry and local authorities certainty and help plan investment in vehicles and infrastructure. This would mirror the 'control periods' which exist for the railways and now being introduced for the English strategic road network.
- Grow bus patronage: Government should seek to grow the number of bus users by fully funding concessionary travel for younger and older people. There is also a strong case for introducing a bus bonus scheme which would give a tax break on the cost of a bus season ticket to those in work or apprenticeships.
1. Buses have seen year on year reductions in funding from local authorities. In December, Campaign for Better Transport published Buses in Crisis, whose findings included 47 per cent of local authorities cutting support for buses in 2013.