Bus passenger journey numbers in Great Britain rose strongly during FY2022/23 compared to the previous year, but growth among concessionary users lagged the overall uplift when the introduction of free bus travel for under-22s in Scotland during early 2022 was discounted, according to Department for Transport (DfT) data.
Across England, Scotland and Wales, journey numbers rose by 20.0% to 3.745 billion in FY2022/23, up from 3.121 billion a year earlier. Scotland saw the greatest rate of increase, at 29.2%. In England including London it was up by 19.3%, while in Wales growth came in at 15.1%.
Despite that positivity, mileage operated fell over the same period. Overall, it dropped by 4.4% to 1.245 billion miles, down from 1.302 billion miles in FY2021/22. Local authority (LA) supported mileage grew by 8.8% over the same period. Commercial mileage outside London fell by 7.0%. Within the capital, mileage declined by 3.4%.
Concessionary passenger number are broken down by DfT into two segments: One for all concessions, and another for the elderly and disabled. For all concessions, the rise across Great Britain was 18.0%.
That figure was influenced by the rollout of free travel for young people in Scotland, and overall concessionary numbers there rose by 69.8%. In England the same metric was 13.5%, and in Wales it was 8.3%.
Worryingly, Wales saw patronage among elderly and disabled concessionary passengers grow by only 4.5% in FY2022/23, a rate less than a third of that of the overall bus patronage increase there. In England, the same metric was 16.1%, while in Scotland it was 14.1% to give a figure for Great Britain in that segment of 15.6%.
The overall bus passenger journey total of 3.745 billion, while a significant rise, was still 21.8% down on the FY2018/19 total of 4.786 billion.
While the figures show that there is still some way to go until patronage is rebuilt to pre-pandemic levels, the Confederation of Passenger Transport has welcomed the significant overall uplift for FY2022/23.
However, it adds that LAs should take note of the year-on-year growth in usage and work with the industry to assist with further increases “by putting bus first on our road network,” says Director of Policy and External Relations Alison Edwards.
Continues Ms Edwards: “This will help operators to deliver fast and reliable bus services that are attractive to passengers. Further growing passenger numbers is the easiest way to sustainable increase bus mileage.”
Full DfT data tables available here.