BUS funding cuts risk turning rural and suburban areas into “transport deserts,” campaigners have warned.
More than 500 routes were cut or reduced across England and Wales, with nearly £30 million slashed from local authority-supported bus funding in 2016/17, the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) warns today.
The funding is for buses not provided by commercial operators, which serve communities with no alternative routes or extend the timetable into evenings or weekends.
CBT campaigner Lianna Etkind said: “These cuts come on the top of cuts to school transport and the underfunding of free pensioner travel.
“Together these threaten the viability of whole bus networks and will lead to transport deserts in some rural and suburban areas where there is no public transport at all.”
The CBT and the Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, want local authorities to be given freedom to improve networks through the Bus Services Bill.
But the government has suffered a series of defeats in the Lords, including over an attempt to prevent councils forming companies to provide bus services.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said he wanted private companies to “dominate” the bus market through “improved partnerships or franchising,” as they do under Transport for London.
A Department of Transport spokesman said: “Buses are vital for local communities, connecting people, homes and businesses, and we are giving councils extra powers to work in partnership with bus companies to improve the service passengers expect and deserve.
“While decisions on funding for services are a matter for local authorities, we provide around £250 million to support bus services every year, benefiting people up and down the country.”