The Department for Transport (DfT) has released quarterly bus statistics for third quarter of 2017 (July – September), revealing a 1.5% year-on-year decrease in bus passenger journeys.
Bus use in England outside London declined by 2% over the same period, now sitting at a level 2.6% lower than in the year ending March 2005. Bus use in London also decreased by 1%, continuing a recent decline, though it remains 12.2% higher than in the year ended March 2007.
Over the same period, fares increased by 3.3% on average, which was a slower rate of increase than the All Items Retail Prices Index, which rose by 3.9%.
The greatest downward trend in Q3 was seen in English metropolitan areas outside London, where the level of decline was 4.6% compared with Q3 of 2016. However, the overall decline in England outside London was a much lower 1.6%. In London, the Q3 decline was just 0.1% compared with the previous year.
Looking at year-long figures ended September 2017, the greatest decline was in Scotland at 3.4%, with English non-metropolitan areas seeing the slowest decline outside London at 1.3%.
Comparing September 2017 with September 2016 saw the greatest fare rises in English non-metropolitan areas (5.3%), the lowest fare rises outside London in Wales (1.8%) and a 1% increase in London.
Lianna Etkind, Public Transport Campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, commented: “The fall in the number of passenger journeys is a direct result of continuing Government cuts to support for buses, nationally and locally. This is resulting in fewer services and fares that are rising even faster than rail fares.
“Buses are vital for the economy and the environment but year-on-year people, especially in rural areas, are losing their bus service making it difficult to access jobs, education and other essential public services.
“But there is hope. Local authorities can use new powers in the Bus Service Act to protect or even restore bus routes, but we also need long-term, sustainable funding from central Government or we will continue to see buses decline.”