DfT finds England’s buses lost 79 million passengers during 2017

 

Tobyn Hughes: ‘We are working together to pool research and evidence’

 

Bus demand across Great Britain has continued to decline according to the latest patronage statistics published this week by the Department for Transport.

The figures reveal that for the full year ending December 2017, bus patronage fell by 1.8% – around 79 million journeys –  across England overall. In London the decrease was 0.6% while outside the capital the pace of decline grew, with a 3.0% fall in patronage recorded.

Comparing local bus passenger journeys for October to December 2017 with the same period in 2016, the figures reveal a 2.5% decrease in England while London’s patronage fell by 0.7%.

However, when London is removed from these figures, the rate of decline in England increased to 4.3%. Meanwhile, Scotland recorded a fall of 2.1% and Wales 4.1%.

This decline comes amid a background of rising fares. While the DfT’s bus fares index for London increased by just 1%, there were sharp increases in other areas. In the shire counties this figure was a substantial 4.5% with the metropolitan areas recording inflation of 3.9%. The fares index also increased by 2% in Scotland and 2.9% in Wales.

The gloomy figures drew a grim response from the Urban Transport Group.

These figures show a continuing and deeply worrying general decline in what continues to be the main form of public transport in urban areas

“These figures show a continuing and deeply worrying general decline in what continues to be the main form of public transport in urban areas,” said Tobyn Hughes, chair of UTG and the North East Combined Authority’s managing director of transport operations.

“Cuts in available funding for local government to support bus services, rising car ownership among older people and competition from rapid growth in Private Hire Vehicles are among the factors behind this decline.

“We are working together to pool research and evidence on these various causes of bus patronage decline and effective ways of responding. Our members are also taking up the enhanced powers available to them in the 2017 Bus Services Act to improve services.”

Hughes added that the UTG believed that all city regions should have automatic access to the powers in the Act to franchise networks of bus services – not only those which have a mayor. He also called for the government to commit more funding for buses.

 

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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