An update from Alice Ridley of the Campaign for Better Transport.
Buses are our most popular form of public transport, accounting for two-thirds of journeys, and the favoured mode of transport for older people and those on low incomes. Ageing decreases mobility so it is extremely important that there is a safe, accessible and reliable public transport network for those who don’t, or can’t drive.
Buses support independent living and allow people to keep in touch with friends and family and make those all-important outings and visits possible. In short buses have a direct impact on social exclusion and play a huge part in stopping people becoming isolated.
The Government’s concessionary bus pass scheme has proved hugely popular, with three quarters of those eligible applying for one. But the Government runs the risk of failing to ensure this vital service is protected.
Spending cuts have hit buses hard, and whilst the Government has promised to keep the concessionary pass scheme, they have changed the way it is funded resulting in a £60 million funding hole. This gap in funding has led to buses being withdrawn leaving older people in some parts of the country with a bus pass, but no bus.
Campaign for Better Transport launched the Save our Buses campaign last year to draw attention to the serious threat to the nation’s buses. Earlier this month we joined Norfolk and Devon County Councils as they delivered a petition of 23,500 signatures to 10 Downing Street, calling for Government to wake up to this problem.
We’ve also written to George Osborne calling for urgent action. The money has to come from somewhere, and at the moment it’s being drained from budgets that are supposed to prop up lifeline buses.
The list of areas most badly hit makes particularly worrying reading because many of these rural counties have already seen some of the deepest bus cuts in the country as a result of the separate cuts to council funding. Our research shows that in English shire counties one in five council-run bus services has already been cut back, which amounts to over 1,000 buses being reduced or withdrawn.
The total savings to councils achieved by these cuts amounted to a comparatively modest £36 million, which shows that a hole of £60 million could cause real damage.
Cutting bus services can mean the loss of people’s only independent access to transport and are a false economy once you take into consideration the knock-on effects reduced mobility has on welfare and social care spending.
As the national budget is being set we want the Government to back up its high profile promise to protect the bus bass with the funding to match. You can take part in the campaign by telling us why your bus pass is precious to you through our website.