Our Transport Chair responds to report on halting decline in bus use

It’s this huge impact that makes the Select Committee’s call for a change to the way services are funded and organised vital

Responding to calls by the Transport Select Committee for reforms to halt the nationwide decline in bus use, Combined Authority Transport Committee Cllr Kim Groves said today: “Buses underpin our economy carrying four times as many people in West Yorkshire as trains, and make an important contribution to improving air quality given that a full double-deck bus can replace as many as 75 cars.

“It’s this huge impact that makes the Select Committee’s call for a change to the way services are funded and organised vital.”

Decline

In its report, the Select Committee warns that funding of bus services in England is uncertain and urges the Government to produce a bus strategy to halt the decline in use and give passengers a fairer deal.

The report recognises that nearly three in every five journeys by public transport in Britain in 2017/18 was by bus, but in most parts of England bus use is falling and hundreds of routes have been axed.

Urgent need

In her response, Cllr Groves said: “The Combined Authority established a Bus Strategy in West Yorkshire in 2017. And to deliver it, we and the bus operators have recognised the urgent need for a new approach which is why we have come together to form a Bus Alliance to find ways we can work together to reverse the decline.

“To achieve this, we need to ensure bus travel is affordable to everyone including young people and that the bus services that people need to get where they want to go actually go.

“We are confident that we can make improvements through this partnership approach, combined with our huge investment in infrastructure schemes that improve journey times and punctuality for buses.

“However we should be doing this work in an environment where the economic, environmental and social importance of buses is recognised nationally and where we have the tools and funding to ensure the joined-up networks people need and quite-rightly expect are in place.”

Reduced, altered or withdrawn 

MP Lilian Greenwood, who chairs the committee, said: "More than 3,000 bus routes in England have been reduced, altered or withdrawn since 2010/11.

"The numbers using bus services are falling. This has direct consequences on people's lives, impacting on journeys to work, education and social events.

"It narrows our transport options and pushes us towards less environmentally-friendly choices.

"And yet, our inquiry found no real evidence that the Government was determined to take action to stop this."

Responding to the report, Jonathan Bray, Director of the Urban Transport Group, said: “The Select Committee is absolutely right to call for urgent and comprehensive action from Government to tackle the continual and alarming year on year decline in bus services and bus use. If we want less congested and less polluted urban areas, with greater access to opportunities for all, then we need national policies which will get more people using better bus services.

“In particular, we strongly support the Committee’s calls for funding reform, more powers for transport authorities to keep buses moving and for all transport authorities to have the option to regulate local bus services.”

Long-term funding plan 

Money for buses from the Government is often seen by councils and operators as "uncoordinated and fragmented", the committee states in the Report. It also describes the fact that there is a long-term funding plan for roads and rail but not for the most used form of public transport, as " strange".

Find out more about the West Yorkshire Bus Alliance.

Download the Commons Select Committee report.

22 May 2019