£2 bus fare cap in England for January to March 2023

Bus fare cap in England to be introduced in January 2023

A £2 single bus fare cap in England between January and March 2023 that will capture “almost every” journey has the support of operators representing around 90% of the market, the Department for Transport (DfT) has said. 

It comes as DfT confirmed that the long-speculated upon initiative – worth up to £60m – was to go ahead. In addition, the Department has dropped a strong hint that further support beyond the end of the current financial year may be provided. 

The recently announced £130m extension to Bus Recovery Grant funding ends on 31 March 2023. In confirming the £2 fare cap, the government says it “will continue to work closely with bus operators and local authorities and consider future support to help passengers continue accessing reliable and affordable bus services” beyond that point. 

Participation in the fare cap scheme will be voluntary. Its funding will come from existing DfT budgets. The government has framed the offer as being one that both helps provide support in the cost-of-living crisis and encourages patronage return. It will also “subsidise operator costs,” DfT adds. 

Background guidance notes state that DfT will work with the bus sector over coming months as it designs and implements the initiative “to encourage their participation.” One individual close to the commercial side of the industry has highlighted that sufficient reimbursement will be critical, including a consideration of any additional resources that may be required from the operator. 

DfT claims that the average single fare in England for a three-mile bus journey is £2.80. Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps says that the £2 cap “will assist passengers over the winter months and provide direct help to thousands of households across the country.” 

It is estimated that the scheme will take “at least two million car journeys off the road,” DfT adds. Low fare initiatives in Cornwall backed by government funding have seen an indicative 10% increase in passenger numbers, the Department continues.

The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has welcomed the bus fare cap in England. Policy Director Alison Edwards says that CPT “looks forward to understanding in detail” how the measure will work in practice “to ensure that it supports the long-term sustainability of bus networks.”

Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region and West Yorkshire will see adult bus fares capped at £2 from September onwards. That work is being made possible by each area’s Bus Service Improvement Plan funding.