Local bus use in England up 2%
Passenger journeys on local buses in England increased 2% in the year to March 2014, according to the latest DfT figures. The 4.7bn passenger journeys on buses in England in 2013/14 is the highest figure since the mid-1980s. Passenger numbers in London, which have doubled over this period, increased 3% in the latest year. Passenger numbers also grew outside the capital, by 1.5%, the first such increase since 2008/09 which was the first year of free national bus travel for older people. DfT claims this increase was largely due to an upsurge in fare paying passengers.
However, overall bus mileage operated continues to slowly decline as it has done in recent years. Bus service mileage in England is estimated to have fallen 0.3% in the latest year, continuing a gradual decline from 2008/09. As in the last two years, this was largely due to reductions in mileage on local authority supported services outside London which fell an estimated 7%, though mileage on commercial services is estimated to have increased. At March 2014, 84% of the 36,000 buses in England had the accessibility certificate required for all buses on local services by 2017 at the latest, with the upward trend of recent years continuing.
Commenting on the figures, Public Transport Campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport, Martin Abrams, said, ‘Where good bus services are provided, it’s good news that more people are using them. But the groups who rely most on getting around by bus – young people, older people and workers on relatively low incomes – are seeing their local bus services get cut by councils under financial pressure, and where services remain, fares are rising faster than wages. This is leaving whole communities stranded without public transport access to vital services like education, health and shops. We need the Government to recognise the importance of bus services to the country’s most vulnerable groups, and commit to protecting bus services in all areas – not just leaving companies to pick up the profitable routes and forcing councils to make disastrous savings on essential routes.’