Overview

New powers mean bus services in England could be turned around for the better

Buses are a crucial means of getting about for many people but for some they are a lifeline.

About half of all bus travel in England takes place in London - elsewhere bus use is low compared to the rest of Europe. In most of continental Europe, bus services are under the control of a local or regional transport authority and these bodies have the power to specify the routes, timetables and fares

Although a lot of subsidy has been put into concessionary fares for older people to travel for free by bus, other subsidies and hence services have been cut back. This is particularly the case on marginal routes in rural areas and services outside peak times. While the change in total bus mileage operated may only drop year on year by a few percentage points, cuts to the margin reduce the viability of public transport as a whole. If you can only go in one direction of your journey by bus or can’t travel the last leg to your destination, then you’re likely to use another form of transport or simply not be able to travel at all.

Rules for and funding of bus services in England are undoubtedly complicated. But the good news is recent changes mean greater opportunities to improve bus services in your area. Much greater use is made in other countries of intermediate forms of public transport using minibuses and shared taxis, such as people carriers. There is real potential now for these forms of transport to bridge gap between car, taxi and bus here too.

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