‘Transport deserts’ risk as council funding cuts bite, says CBT

New research from the Campaign for Better Transport claims shows that supported bus services have been affected by funding cuts with more than 500 routes completely withdrawn or reduced across England and Wales in 2016/17.

The ‘Buses in Crisis’ research by Campaign for Better Transport  shows that nearly £30million has been cut from local authority supported bus funding in the last financial year, an 11 per cent reduction in England and 7 per cent in Wales, compared  to 2015/16.  

The research also shows that since 2010, more than £100 million, 33 per cent, has been cut from local authority bus funding and 2,900 bus services have suffered cut backs and withdrawals resulting in huge disruptions for communities. 

“Buses across the country have been hit hard by funding cuts,” says Lianna Etkind, public transport campaigner, Campaign for Better Transport. “Year-on-year, we are seeing more bus services lost, with some local authorities stopping supporting buses altogether.

“These cuts come on the top of cuts to school transport and the underfunding of free pensioner travel; together these threaten the viability of whole bus networks and will lead to ‘transport deserts’ in some rural and suburban areas where there is no public transport at all. This decline is not inevitable though. With the Bus Services Bill currently going through Parliament, there is hope that powers in the bill will help local authorities to better plan and set standards for their bus networks, improving people’s access to jobs, services and education.”

The organisation also used the publication of the latest quarterly bus statistics from the Department for Transport, which show that bus mileage in England has decreased by two per cent since last year and that mileage on local authority supported services outside London has decreased by 12 per cent, to reinforce its campaign.

“These figures back up our own research and confirm buses in crisis across the country,” adds Etkind.

The ‘Buses in Crisis’ research found that 66 per cent of local authorities have reduced their spend on supported bus provision this year and 10 councils in England and Wales already had no supported bus services at all as of 2016/17 - Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees, Darlington,Cumbria, Stoke on Trent, Luton, Southend on Sea, Cardiff, Neath Port Talbot and Wrexham, while four councils, Middlesbrough, Lancashire, Isle of Wight and Torbay Borough have made 100 per cent cuts to bus subsidies in the financial year 2016/17.

The North West is the region that has seen the highest bus cuts this year, with an average reduction in bus spending of 15 per cent.