Latest DfT statistics show slight decline in bus use

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Bus passenger satisfaction remains high but 29m less bus journeys were taken last year in figures revealed by the DfT

The latest figures released by the Department for Transport show a slight decline in bus use in England for the March 2018 to March 2019 period. Overall, there was a decline of 0.7%, representing a reduction of 29m journeys to 4.32bn for the year. Overall satisfaction remained high, at 85% in London and 88% in England outside London, and the figures reveal that a total of 33,900 buses were in use by operators, covering 1.18bn miles, a decrease of 1.3% on the previous year. 51% of journeys took place in London, with 2.20bn journeys made there, compared to 2.12bn in the rest of England, whilst 74% of buses are now reported to be fitted with contactless payment technology. The number of coaches and buses licenced decreased by 2.4% over the period, compared to all other vehicle types which saw an increase.

Women continue to represent a higher proportion of bus users than men, whilst among staff the report finds that 93% of drivers are male, a slight increase on the previous year, despite recent initiatives to recruit more women. Of both genders, usage rises at the younger and older ends of the age range. In the year to March, fares rose an average of 3.3%, compared to Consumer Price Index of 1.9% for the same period, meaning an increase in real terms.

Commenting on the DfT’s statistics, Alison Edwards, Policy Manager at the Confederation of Passenger Transport said: “In contrast with London where passenger numbers are falling more quickly than elsewhere in England, areas such as Bristol, the West Midlands ITA and Merseyside where there are strong partnerships between bus operators and local authorities, are seeing growing bus passenger numbers (Bristol and West Midlands both recorded an average of around 92 passenger journeys per head in 2018/19).

“Independent research by KPMG has shown that rising car ownership and congestion are the biggest issues impacting on bus use. These figures published today show the vital need for both central and local government to invest in measures to tackle congestion and put the bus first in all towns and cities across the country. The industry welcomes the Government’s recent commitment to publish a national bus strategy along with extra funding for buses which acknowledges the importance of the bus to society and in addressing the challenges of air quality and climate change.

“It is encouraging to see that 88% of passengers were satisfied with their bus journeys and that many buses are now offering services such as free WiFi (31%) and contactless payment – which industry now believes is even higher than the 74% recorded when these statistics were collected – with nearly all buses (94%) now using Automatic Vehicle Location to provide real-time information to customers.”