Councils’ support for socially necessary bus services has fallen by a third since 2010, the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) has said.
Its research found bus subsidies have been cut by £26.3m in England in 2016-17 alone with more than 500 routes withdrawn or reduced in that time.
Spending on bus subsidies has declined from £298.2m in 2010-11 to £199.70m this year, the CBT said and added “the impact on people young and old can be devastating”.
Outside London’s regulated system operators can run services as they choose, with councils able to subsidise routes they deem socially necessary.
Four councils ended spending on bus services altogether in 2016-17: Isle of Wight Council, Lancashire CC, Middlesbrough BC, and Torbay BC.
Oxfordshire CC cut the highest number of routes at 118, far ahead of Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority in second place on 40, though Oxfordshire said around half these routes continued to run commercially.
Leader Ian Hudspeth (Con) said when the county decided to end subsidies in February 2016: “We welcome the positive response that we have had from bus operators. It is good news that around half of services will continue, with the majority involving an amended service whether that be a revised timetable or changing the frequency of a route.”
Research earlier this month by the Association of Transport Co-coordinating Officers (ATCO) found similar results to the CBT on reductions in councils’ spending on buses, which it said meant many holders of free bus passes now had no buses on which to travel.
Children’s services directors said in January the duty on councils to provide transport for pupils who live beyond walking distance of their school should be scrapped, citing a £737.1m cost to councils for school transport.