Local authority leaders have called on the Government to help them support bus routes as the distance local buses travel drops to lowest level since the mid-1980s.
According to the latest annual figures from the Local Government Association (LGA), buses in England travelled a distance of 1.18 billion miles in 2018/19 – down from 1.33 billion in 2008/09.
The last time bus travel was lower was in 1986/87, the LGA says.
Bus passenger journeys also dropped by 318 million between 2008/09 and 2018/19.
The LGA argues that an increase in fares – up 71% since 2005 – and a £700m annual funding gap for the concessionary fares scheme are contributing to the decline in services and bus usage.
Concessionary bus fares are a legal requirement of councils to provide free, off-peak travel for older and disabled residents.
‘Local bus services play an absolutely vital role in connecting communities and are a lifeline to older and vulnerable residents who rely on buses on a daily basis. They are also important in tackling congestion, air quality and climate change,’ said Cllr David Renard, the LGA’s transport spokesman.
‘Plans for a national bus strategy are an important step. The continuing decline in how far buses are travelling and the falling number of passenger journeys highlight the urgent need for it to include long-term investment in our country’s local bus networks.’
‘The funding gap faced by councils in providing the concessionary fare scheme is severely impacting their ability to step in and prop up bus routes that are otherwise at risk of ending altogether,’ he continued.
‘Councils want to work with the Government to make sure every community in all areas of the country is able to access a local bus service.’