This is no time to make further cuts in subsidies and grants for local bus services
Campaign for Better Transport is just the latest painful reminder of how repeated cuts to public funding are depriving people of vital bus services across the UK.
More than 500 bus routes across England and Wales have been either withdrawn or reduced over the past year, amid £30m of cuts to local authority supported bus funding, according to the new data.
Local bus services are the backbone of the UK’s public transport network, carrying 2.5 million people to work every day and providing vital access to city and town centres, and public services.
Despite their vital role, buses have routinely been the biggest losers from tough decisions on transport funding. Overall local authority bus funding has been reduced by more than £100m since 2010, resulting in severe cuts to services.
This is no time to make further cuts in subsidies and grants for local bus services. Eight out of ten bus passengers know someone who completely depends on the bus and nearly nine in ten unemployed 18-24 year olds have no access to a car and rely heavily on buses.
More than half of students rely on the bus, but if they could no longer take the bus to their education or training, 12% would be forced to miss lessons and 6% would have to look for another course. For one in five bus journeys, a practical alternative does not exist.
There is also a significant relationship between accessibility of buses and employment – a 10% improvement in access to bus services would mean 50,000 more people in work.
A report last year by Greener Journeys, The Value of the Bus to Society, found that buses also help to reduce social deprivation – finding that a 10% improvement in local bus service connectivity is linked to a 3.6% reduction in social deprivation.
The report concluded that a 10% improvement in local bus services in the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods across England would result in:
• 9,909 more jobs, the result of a 2.7% fall in employment deprivation
• 22,647 people with increased income, the result of a 2.8% drop in income deprivation
• 2,596 fewer years of life lost
• 7,313 more people with adult skills
• 0.7% increase in post-16 education
In addition to this significant contribution to society, investment in bus brings numerous benefits to the economy – for example, buses facilitate 29% of all city centre expenditure; bus commuters generate more than £64 billion in goods and services.
Cost-benefit analysis by KPMG LLP also reveals that bus infrastructure investment delivers excellent value for money, with every £1 spent on local bus infrastructure delivering up to £7 of net wider economic benefits.
Investing in buses doesn’t just support the millions of passengers who depend on them, or feed towns and cities, generating income for local businesses – it also helps to tackle congestion and reduce carbon emissions and roadside air pollution currently affecting many towns and cities across the UK.
The best used bus services in urban centres are reducing carbon emissions from road transport by up to 75%. The latest Euro VI buses produce 95% fewer NOx emissions than Euro V.
Millions depends on buses across the UK, and buses deliver tremendous social, economic and environmental benefits. We urge decision makers to improve local transport through investment in bus, rather than continuing to let the axe fall on this vital public service.
Claire Haigh is chief executive of Greener Journeys