Rural and remote bus services saw journeys fall by 97 million last year due to a £348m funding gap, a new report has warned.
The new report from the County Councils Network (CCN) and the County All-Party Parliamentary Group reveals that while funding declined by £233m between 2009 and 2019, costs increased by £115m due to population increases.
The report calls on the Government not to overlook counties in its forthcoming bus investment strategy.
Peter Aldous, chairman of the County All-Party Parliamentary Group, said: 'The inquiry that informed this report showed the devastating impact on rural and remote communities of services that councils could no longer afford to subsidise. Whilst passenger numbers have declined across England, services in counties are operating at minimum levels and any reduction in services hits those who are elderly and disadvantaged the hardest.
'A reduction in passenger numbers does not equate to a reduction in demand, and it is clear that there has been an increase in people who need these lifeline services but have seen their bus routes fade away over the last decade. With much focus on public transport in cities, we fear the needs of county and rural areas could be ignored.'
County leaders and MPs say that bus route changes and closures have had a ‘devastating’ impact on those who are elderly or disadvantaged, alongside adversely impacting the employment and health prospects of people.