“Bus firms have paid shareholders £1.5billion in dividends in the past 10 years, while fares have soared and services have been axed.
Fares have gone up 55% on average since 2008, far outstripping pay growth. Some passengers have even been hit by increases of 100% and bus use is at a 12-year low.
Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach carry 70% of all bus passengers and have paid an average £149million a year in dividends in the past 10 years.
The most recent company records show they paid out dividends amounting to £48,077,200 from profits in the South East, £23,521,200 in the North East, £18,460,700 in the North West, £13,767,700 in the Midlands and £27,309,700 in London.
Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said: “Our bus networks are being bled dry by greedy private operators. Labour will bring buses under public control and ownership in order to reverse bus cuts rather than fill the pockets of shareholders.
“It is an outrage that bus companies enjoy colossal profits as thousands of routes are cut or withdrawn. The bus network has shrunk to its smallest size in decades and passenger numbers are plummeting.
“A combination of privatisation and Tory cuts is killing local bus services.
“Labour would enhance and expand bus services, including providing free travel to under-25s.”
The research by campaign group Better Buses for Greater Manchester also found bus journeys had fallen by 40% in urban areas since the deregulation of services by the Tories 32 years ago.
In London, where deregulation did not apply, passenger journeys on the franchised network have doubled and bus companies’ profits are around 4%, compared to 8% in cities where services are deregulated.
The Better Buses for Greater Manchester findings are revealed as a campaign is launched today urging Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to re-regulate services, bringing buses under public control.
Pascale Robinson, of Better Buses for Greater Manchester, said: “The deregulation we have now means bus companies just run the routes they want to at a whim. They can charge what they like.
“This means the big five bus companies are cherry-picking the profitable routes, making a killing, and it is us in Greater Manchester who suffer infrequent, unreliable and expensive buses.”
Greater Manchester is one of the first cities to consider re-regulating its bus network, which would give the mayor the choice to put the public in control instead of the big firms.
Ms Robinson said: “By this method bus firms are given controlled contracts to run the services we need, services which are reliable and affordable.
“We call on Mr Burnham to be bold and give us the bus network we deserve. We can’t keep letting these companies run a Wild West, charging through the roof for a patchy service.
“For every pound of dividend given to shareholders in London, 82 journeys were taken. Elsewhere across the country, where buses are mostly deregulated except for a few small pockets, it was just under 20.”
In Greater Manchester, passengers have complained that changes to the 372 Hazel Grove-Stockport service means taking two different buses to do the same journey, which used to pass by the hospital.
They now need a £4.50 “day rider” ticket, adding £1 to each journey.
This summer the Mirror revealed how mum-of-nine Gemma Headley, 36, of Driffield, East Yorks, had to walk seven miles to get her daughters to infant school because of bus cuts. Department for Transport figures show the number of bus routes at a 28-year low.
The bus network has shrunk by 8% in the last decade. Since 2010, the Tories have almost halved funding for bus services in England and 3,347 routes have been axed or reduced.
Experts say investing in bus travel would bring benefits as people return to towns and cities to spend their money.
An analysis for Greener Journeys by auditors KPMG LLP shows that targeted investment to improve bus services would typically generate £3.32 of net economic benefit for each £1 spent.
Steve Chambers, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: ”Across the country we are seeing the alarming impact this is having on communities, especially in rural areas, as people are being left isolated and unable to get to work, get to the shops, visit friends or access vital public services.
“The loss of bus services also has an adverse effect on congestion and air pollution as more people turn to cars, jamming up already congested roads.”
Mirror reader and retired lorry driver Michael Palmer, 74, tells how a half-hourly service from his home in the North Fitzwarren, Somerset, to Taunton, is now every two hours, finishing too early for workers returning home.
He said: “We are living in the 21st century, this is England, we should have the best public transport service in the world. Where did it all go wrong?”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We provide around £250million every year to support bus services and a further £1billion to support older and disabled people using the free bus pass scheme.”
The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, which represents bus and coach operators, said the dividends paid were outweighed by investment, with Stagecoach investing £1billion on around 7, 000 new buses in 10 years.
How bus prices have risen over a decade…
All prices are for day tickets except London.
2008 – £3.30
2018 – £6.70
A 103% increase
2008 – £3.50
2018 – £5.20
A 49% increase
2008 – £3.30
2018 – £5.60
A 70% increase
2008 – £2.60
2018 – £5.20
A 100% increase
2008 – £3.20
2018 – £4.20
A 31% increase
2008 – £8.20
2018 – £12
A 46% increase
2008 – £2.20
2018 – £4.50
A 105% increase
2008 – £3
2018 – £4.80
A 60% increase
2008 – £3.00
2018 – £4
A 33% increase
(No day tripper anymore)
Single journey 2008 – 90p
Single journey 2018 – £1.50
A 66% increase
Why ‘On the Buses’ loses comedic fun to big fares
By Paul Routledge
Maggie Thatcher may not, as legend says, have sneered that “any man over 26 who finds himself on a bus can count himself a failure”. As an inveterate user of public transport, I’m happy to be seen as a failure.
The bus is a traditional part of the British way of life. It’s a place for gossip, getting to the shops, the hospital and to see friends, a moving theatre of society.
No wonder On The Buses was so popular. The soap played to our affection for the bus. “Sit at the back for a longer ride!”
But it’s getting harder and harder. Thatcher’s deregulation and privatisation of the industry was a failure for would-be travellers of any age.
It brought fewer routes and higher fares – with profits and subsidies creamed off for investors, many of them foreign.
I hear grumbles galore from fellow passengers about late and cancelled services. But it’s not the crews’ fault that the system isn’t working.
The sell-off brought redundancies. The clippie went out with cost-saving one-man operation. Drivers face exhausting schedules.
The Tories cut local government funding, so councils slashed subsidies to the companies, who take it out on the passenger.
We’ve waited too long at the bus stop for an end to this rip-off.”