Campaign for Better Transport has warned of ‘transport deserts’ in some rural and suburban areas. New research from the group reveals supported bus services have been hit hard by funding cuts with over 500 routes completely withdrawn or reduced across England and Wales in 2016/17.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 study suggests that almost £30m has been cut from local authority supported bus funding in the last financial year, an 11% reduction in England and 7% in Wales, compared to 2015/16. It also shows that since 2010 over £100m, 33%, 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.
The north west has seen the highest bus cuts during the period examined, with an average reduction in bus spending of 15%. 66% of local authorities have reduced their spend on supported bus provision this year. Ten councils around England and Wales have 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 and Wrexham.
Public Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport, Lianna Etkind, 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.’
Commenting on the findings, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, Claire Haigh, said, ‘Local bus services are the backbone of the UK’s public transport network, carrying 2.5m people to work every day and providing vital access to town centres and public services. Buses also help to reduce social deprivation. A 10% improvement in local bus service connectivity is linked to a 3.6% reduction in social deprivation. However, buses have routinely been the biggest losers from tough decisions on transport funding. Overall local authority bus funding has been reduced by more than £100m since 2010, resulting in severe cuts to services. Investing in buses doesn’t just support the millions of passengers who depend on them, it is also an effective means of tackling congestion and reducing roadside air pollution, problems currently affecting many towns and cities across the UK.’