Figures obtained by Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) show council spending cuts have led to 1 in 5 supported bus services being cut with more yet to come.
The figures, which were collected through freedom of information requests, reveal council cuts to bus budgets totalling £36m have resulted in more than 1,000 (1,114) service cuts.
The transport pressures group is warning these cuts are just the tip of the iceberg. Many more bus services are likely to be lost as two thirds (77%) of local transport authorities in England are either planning to, or could not rule out, further cuts in the future.
The CBT is concerned that the amount of money being cut doesn’t adequately reflect the impact of loss of services on passengers, since many councils are not tracking the effects of cuts either in terms of buses lost, or passenger journeys affected. Only 46 councils put a figure on the number of bus services which had been reduced, and only 20 reported how many passenger journeys will be affected.
Cuts to supported services are expected to have a knock-on effect on commercial services, as people can no longer rely on evening buses to get home or on feeder routes linking services, the CBT added. In addition, the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) will be cut by 20% from April 2012, which will result in £99.6m less funding, and changes to the administration of the concessionary fares and its budget calculated will mean around another £50 to £100m reduction in spending on local bus services.
Sophie Allain, CBT’s bus campaigner, said: “Buses are cheap and they are essential to the economy, getting people to work and places where they spend money. Our figures reveal a pretty bleak picture, but what’s more worrying is it’s set to get a lot worse. Unless something is done we run the very real risk of doing to buses what Dr Beeching did to the local rail network. Shortterm decisions to make scrappy savings this year looks set to cause real damage to the country’s local bus network – harming communities and local economies – and will come back to haunt this government.”
The group is also warning bus cuts could hamper the government’s attempts to get more people into work and affect the viability of recent policy announcements regarding job seekers needing to take jobs up to 90 minutes away. Two thirds of jobseekers don’t have access to a car and are reliant on public transport.
The CBT is calling on the Government to recognise the economic importance of the bus network and prevent it from being engulfed in a perfect storm of cuts by scrapping plans for further cuts next year and sharing bus funding across Government departments.
Save Our Buses is the CBT’s campaign which makes the case for buses to government decision-makers and supports local campaign groups to fight bus cuts in their area. For more information vist the save our buses page.