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Digest: Bus use rises in richer areas

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Bus use is increasing most rapidly in some of England’s wealthier local authority areas where passengers cite environmental issues and avoiding congestion among its benefits, a report has found.

In the Any Journey is Greener by Bus report, government-backed sustainable transport partnership LowCVP said bus use was rising where councils had taken the most active measures to encourage use.

The highest growth in patronage from 2009-10 to 2015-16 was in Bristol (19%), Reading (17%), Milton Keynes (15%), and Oxfordshire (12%), although half of all England’s bus journeys are made within London’s regulated system.

Popular improvements included cleaner vehicle technology, real-time travel information, integrated ticketing, and bus priority lanes, the report said.

The findings suggested “the balance between private and shared travel for those living in the wealthiest, most congested parts of the country may be gradually shifting in favour of the bus”.

Local Government Association transport spokesman Martin Tett (Con) said: “While it is great news that more people in some areas are using buses, these cherished services remain under threat as councils continue facing severe budgetary pressures.”

He said control of the bus service operators’ grant – a fuel duty rebate – should be handed to councils along with resources to meet the £200m shortfall on statutory free bus pass schemes.

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