Downward spiral is predicted

Greener Journeys, the Campaign for Better Transport and Pteg have launched A Fair Deal for Buses, a joint briefing which outlines the various sources of funding for buses and examines the impact of cuts on networks across the country.

It concludes that reducing overall grant levels would trigger a crisis in bus services, with all the negative impacts on Britain’s economy that would result.

The largest portion of funding comes directly from Government, principally via the Bus Service Operator’s Grant (BSOG) in England, or similar schemes in Wales and Scotland. Research by KPMG for Greener Journeys shows that each pound allocated through BSOG generates up to 3.50 in benefits – principally for passengers, but also for other road users and the wider economy.

However, funding available through BSOG was reduced by 20% in 2012/13. At the same time local authority spending on ‘socially necessary’ bus services and concessionary travel schemes has also declined, with a reduction of 15% (44m) since 2010.

Research by the Campaign for Better Transport has shown that in the last year alone almost 600 bus services across England and Wales were cut, withdrawn or altered.

The inevitable result of further cuts to funding for local bus services is the continuation of current trends, including reductions in service, increases in fares and declining bus usage. Withdrawing BSOG now would likely trigger a 3% rise in fares and a drop in service levels of 7%, with more passengers switching from the bus to private cars. This would have a potentially severe impact on the economy.

High streets would suffer due to reduced access to towns, labour markets outside urban centres would shrink, and greater pressure would be placed on the road network, with a corresponding rise in pollution.

There would also be significant social impacts, according to new research conducted by Greener Journeys with Mindlab which found that 80% of passengers know someone who completely depends on their local bus service. Half of those surveyed said they would attend fewer events without their local bus service, while 40% said they would be forced to spend less time with family.

According to the three transport campaign groups, failure to maintain the current level of total grant funding for buses would result in a downward spiral in bus services, with major knock-on effects on the economy and society which Britain’s bus networks support so well.

So far the campaign has been covered in the Sun on Sunday as well as other outlets, and the three groups have submitted a formal submission to the Spending Review, ahead of the formal conclusion on 25 November. Throughout the summer and in to the autumn campaigners will be making the case to policymakers in Westminster.

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