A creeping realisation has come to many parts of the country. Local bus services are being eroded as local authorities are forced to cut back spending. According to the Department for Transport, bus mileage outside London declined by 4% between 2004/05 and 2014/15 due to a 25% decrease in local authority supported mileage. As a percentage of total mileage, supported mileage has declined by 15% in metropolitan areas and 28% in other areas. Since 2012/13, more bus journeys have been made in London than the rest of England. However, buses are hugely important to local economies and enable people to get to where they need to be; over twice as many bus journeys are made than rail journeys.
In thinking about transport, the availability of buses matters. Contrary to popular belief, buses are not managed by local councils and their direct influence is limited to funding those services which operators will not provide commercially and are considered to be socially necessary. However, many parts of the country now have no supported services. The consequence is that some people have been forced to change how they travel.
I was quoted recently in an article in ‘The Guardian’ which was exploring the loss of rural transport services. This noted how local bus services play a key role in communities not just in rural areas but in smaller towns and suburbia. These losses are not restricted to older people who become more isolated but also younger people of working age who need regular access to jobs and training. They are faced with some stark choices such as not working or moving home. Those relocating to urban areas are unlikely to return. Hence a relatively small reduction in bus funding can create a much longer term problem.
PTRC welcomes your thoughts on this and other issues for next year’s Transport Practitioners’ Meeting. Please think about submitting an abstract for consideration.
Director and Trustee, CILT(UK)
Technical Director, Mott MacDonald