Campaigners warn of '˜crisis' for bus travel

TRANSPORT campaigners today warn of a mounting crisis for bus travel in the face of sweeping service cutbacks and reductions in funding running into tens of millions of pounds.

A new report from the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) group claims that local-authority bus budgets in England and Wales were slashed by £20.5m last year.

It also says that the supported bus budgets – used by local authorities to subsidise services that would not otherwise be 
provided by private operators – have been cut by more than £180m since the 2010/11 financial year.

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Figures released by the CBT show that spending on supported buses across Yorkshire and the Humber fell by nearly 45 per cent between 2010/11 and 2017/18.

According to today’s Buses In Crisis report, more than 3,300 of the services have been reduced, altered or withdrawn across 
England and Wales over the last eight years.

The CBT is now urging the Government to “wake up” and put in place a new national bus travel strategy, complete with appropriate levels of funding.

It acknowledges that the recently introduced Bus Services Act – which gives local authorities more scope for working with private operators to improve provision for passengers – is a step in the right direction but also warns that it is “not enough on its own”.

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Steve Chambers, public transport campaigner at the CBT, said: “Our latest report confirms that the slow death of the supported bus continues, with local-authority bus budgets suffering yet another cut this year.

“The resulting cuts to services mean many people no longer have access to public transport, with rural areas hit especially hard.

“The loss of a bus service has huge implications – it can prevent people accessing jobs and education, have an adverse effect on the local economy with people prevented from getting to shops and businesses, affect people’s physical health and mental wellbeing and has an inevitable effect on congestion and air pollution as more cars jam up our roads.

“The recent Bus Services Act does have the potential to improve local buses, but it’s not enough on its own. The Government must wake up to the crisis hitting buses before it’s too late.

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“We want to see a proper national strategy for buses backed up by funding, like those that already exist for all other modes of transport.

“Only when we treat what is happening to buses as a national crisis, rather than a local one, will we start to reverse their decline.”

A breakdown in the CBT report of supported bus spending between 2010/11 and 2017/18 shows reductions of 36 per cent in West Yorkshire, 31 per cent in York, 72 per cent in Hull and 43 per cent in the Sheffield City Region.

Responding to the report, a spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said: “We recognise that buses are vital in connecting people, homes and businesses, and that’s why we have given local councils extra powers to work in partnership with bus companies to improve the services passengers expect and deserve.

“We provide around £250m every year to support bus services and a further £1bn to support older and disabled people using the free bus pass scheme, benefiting people up and down the country.”