Local bus use plummets in Devon as routes cut

“”Local bus journeys in Devon are at a record low – with campaigners warning the national network is now in “crisis”.

The latest figures from the Department for Transport reveal that 24.2 million journeys were made on local bus services in Devon in 2017/18. That’s nearly two million fewer journeys than the year before, and the lowest number since at least 2009/10, when the figures were first published.

The Campaign for Better Transport say that the fall in the number of passengers taking the bus is due to ongoing cuts in funding for these services, resulting in fewer services and higher fares.

Nationally, average local bus fares across England have increased by 12 per cent since 2009, after inflation.

Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “The statistics back up what our research has been showing for years – that buses are in crisis.

“Local bus services are vital, linking millions of us to jobs, education, shops and services, friends and family. They open up opportunities and help to fight loneliness. …

… The Local Government Association says nearly half of all bus routes in England currently receive partial or complete subsidies from councils.

With councils in England facing an overall funding gap that will reach £8 billion by 2025, the LGA said councils will struggle to maintain current subsidies for bus routes across the country unless this is
addressed in the Spending Review.

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, said: “Councils know how important buses are for their residents and local economies and are desperate to protect them.

“It’s nearly impossible for councils to keep subsidising free travel while having to find billions of pounds worth of savings and protect other vital services like caring for the elderly and disabled, protecting children, filling potholes and collecting bins.

“Faced with significant funding pressures, many across the country are being forced into taking difficult decisions to scale back services and review subsidised routes.” …

… Andy McDonald MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said: “These figures are alarming, and underline the devastating impact of Tory cuts on local bus services.

“Bus networks are in a spiral of decline, cutting people off from work and education and friends and family, particularly those in rural areas or from low income backgrounds.

“For many people, buses are the only form of public transport available. And the bulk of the people that use and rely on buses are often the poor, the young, the old and the vulnerable.

“At the same time, cutting and withdrawing services is worsening congestion, air pollution and our impact on climate change.”

“The government should give local authorities the powers to franchise and municipalise buses and boost bus funding, and allow them to take back regulatory powers so that they can set the fares, routes, and timetables that will put their communities first, ahead of the interests of private profit.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/crisis-local-bus-journeys-devon-2489912