Bus use fell across England in the year to March 2018, with the mileage supported by councils reducing by almost 10m.
Annual figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) showed total journeys fell by 85m to 4.36bn over the year, a 1.9% fall.
The decrease was only 0.7% on London’s regulated buses but 3.2% elsewhere. London accounted for slightly more than half of all bus journeys at 2.23bn.
Outside London, bus journeys decreased by 3.3% to 0.91bn in metropolitan areas and to 1.22bn elsewhere, a 3.1% fall.
Councils’ ability to support bus routes that operators will not run commercially continued to decline under budget pressures.
The DfT said the bus mileage outside London had reduced by 12.9% since 2004-05, during which time the council-supported network shrank by 49% with most routes lost outside metropolitan areas.
Local authority supported routes totalled 0.11bn miles in 2017-18, an 8.8% fall on the previous year.
“Overall, the decline in supported mileage has not been fully matched by an increase in commercial mileage and in the latest year commercial mileage decreased by 3.5%,” the research noted.
Fares in metropolitan areas outside London have increased by well over twice the consumer price index since 2005, at 86% against 35%, while those for non-metropolitan areas also significantly exceeded the index with a 61% rise.
Campaign for Better Transport chief executive Darren Shirley said: “Local bus services are vital, linking millions of us to jobs, education, shops and services, friends and family.
“But buses up and down the country are being cut, severing these precious connections. What we need is a national bus strategy, backed by central Government funding. Rail and roads, cycling and walking - all of these already have a national strategy. Why should buses be the poor relation?”
There were 9.4m valid concessionary travel passes for older and disabled people in 2017-18, but their use fell by 4.8% over the year to 884m journeys.
Councils spent £1.12bn on providing concessionary travel, 79% on journeys covered by the English national concessionary travel scheme and the remainder on discretionary concessions.
Bus journeys made per head of population
Brighton & Hove 171
Nottingham 145 (majority council-owned operator)
Reading 133 (council-owned operator)
Tyne & Wear 96
Cheshire East, Windsor & Maidenhead, Herefordshire 11
Central Bedfordshire 13