Bus journeys drop by over 300 million in five years

New figures have shown that bus journeys have plummeted by more than 300 million in just five years, falling to their lowest level in over a decade.

There were 4.31 billion bus passenger journeys made in England in 2018/19 compared to 4.627 billion in 2014/15, representing a fall of 317 million. Such figures have prompted the Local Government Association to call on the government to give councils oversight of local bus services so they can maintain and improve them, and protect local routes so older and vulnerable people don’t get left behind.

Council leaders have also revealed that the majority of residents want councils to decide how bus services are provided in their local area. The LGA says that investing in bus services can provide a lifeline to older and vulnerable people who depend on local buses, with increased congestion and poorer air quality in local communities also lamented as key concerns.

Councils have previously warned that nearly half of all bus routes are at risk, as the funding gap from government for the concessionary bus fare scheme is expected to grow from the estimated £652 million shortfall in 2017/18.

David Renard, LGA Transport spokesman, said: “Councils want to protect local bus services, which are a vital service and can be a lifeline for our most vulnerable residents, whether that is to go shopping, collect medication, attend doctor appointments or socialise with friends.

“The continuing decline in bus journeys emphasises the need to protect bus services and for councils to be able to invest in funding subsidised routes. Not only will this make sure we can provide bus services to those who rely on them, but it can also help to reduce congestion and improve air quality by reducing the number of vehicles on our roads.

“As our polling also shows, the vast majority of residents want to see councils take control over how bus routes operate in their local area. With proper funding and by giving all councils oversight through automatic franchising powers, councils will be better placed to boost ailing passenger numbers and enable more people to use the bus services they rely on every day.”