New research shows bus services outside London have plummeted

Bus services outside of London have seen a staggering decline over the past 15 years, with provision plummeting by more than 60% in 80 local authority areas, new research shows.

Dr Malcom Morgan at the Institute for Transport Studies worked alongside Friends of the Earth to complete an analysis of all local and national bus timetables in England, Scotland and Wales over the last 15 years. 

Dr Morgan built and analysed a historical dataset of public transport timetables and analysed the service patterns. 

The key findings include:

  • On average, across England and Wales, urban bus services have dropped by 48% and rural buses by 52% since 2008.   
  • Some regions have fared worse than others, with services down 60% in the East Midlands, 57% in Wales and 52% in the North East.   
  • The local authority areas of Hart, Fenland and Broxtowe have all seen a staggering decline in services of more than 80%.   

A new interactive map shows the fall in services at the constituency level and a breakdown of the data by local authority area and region. 

With Parliamentary constituency boundaries changing ahead of the next General Election, which is widely expected to take place next year, the researchers have tracked the decline of bus services in those areas since the Conservatives came to power.

The data shows the constituencies that have fared worse since 2010 are Northeast Hampshire, which has seen an 82% fall in services, Bridgwater in Somerset (81%), Staffordshire Moorland (78%) and Stoke-on-Trent North (78%).

Disproportionate effects

Good quality, regular bus services are essential for the 22% of households that don’t have access to a car, which disproportionately affects people living on low incomes. 

They are also vital for helping people reduce their car use to cut harmful carbon emissions and ease congestion in urban areas.   

The research finds that evening and nighttime services are particularly poor outside of London, which impacts shift workers without cars, such as NHS staff and those who want to enjoy local nightlife such as theatres and cinemas.

While bus services in London have remained at similar levels over the past 15 years, the analysis highlights a stark contrast with urban areas outside the capital which have an average of 14 buses per hour, compared to up to 120 in parts of London.

Public transport renaissance

Ahead of the next General Election, Friends of the Earth is calling on all political parties to include a manifesto pledge for a ‘public transport renaissance’ and for the next government to commit to return bus services to 2010 levels within five years. 

Mike Childs, head of Science, Policy and Research at Friends of the Earth, said:   

“There has been a silent war on bus users for over a decade. This is not only disproportionately impacting those living on low incomes, people of colour and disabled people who are less likely to own a car, but also people who have had to give up their car as they’ve got older or due to poor health. 

“A bus renaissance is essential both for the millions of people who do not own a car in the UK and as part of a fair, green transition to a zero-carbon economy. 

“To reduce pollution and cut emissions, we need the government to invest in our crumbling public transport system to make it far easier for people to use their car less and switch to greener ways to travel like buses, trains and cycling.” 

Read the full report at Friends of the Earth.