Local buses provide 4.7 billion passenger trips a year in England, which is around three times as many trips made by rail. Bus services are key to providing people with access to work, education and leisure time.
- Councils have a statutory duty to administer the concessionary bus travel scheme in England. The scheme provides pensioners and disabled people with free off-peak travel on all local bus services in England.
- The free bus pass provides a vital service for our communities. It allows many vulnerable residents to go shopping, pick up medication, and attend doctors’ appointments. Councils know how important buses are for their residents and local economies and are desperate to protect them.
- Local authorities are having to spend over £200 million a year to subsidise the scheme, at a time of pressurised budgets.ii This results in councils having to find savings in other vital services, including their support for important, but commercially unviable bus routes. The Government should acknowledge the funding gap and commit to fully fund the concessionary fares scheme.
- The total cost of funding the statutory concessionary bus travel for councils is estimated at over £750 million a year.iii Faced with significant funding pressures, many local authorities across the country are being forced to scale back services and review subsidised bus routes. This could result in isolated members of the community losing the buses they rely on.
- The effect of these funding pressures has seen council-supported bus services in rural areas reduce by around 40 per cent in the last decade. In urban areas outside London over the same period, the figure is just over 25 per cent.