Bus Services after the Spending Review - Transport Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. Buses are the most available and frequently used mode of public transport in England. Two-thirds of all passenger journeys are made by bus: there were 4.6bn bus passenger journeys in England in 2009-10 (2.4bn outside of London), compared to 1.3bn rail and 1.1bn London Underground journeys.[1] A quarter of UK households do not have access to a car, including one in ten households in rural areas.[2] We received a great deal of evidence, including from bus users, about the economic, social, environmental and other benefits provided by local buses. A selection of these views is provided in the Annex.

2. Yet buses remain an undervalued mode of public transport and, unlike other modes such as rail, bus users lack a distinctive influential lobbying voice. We were told that, despite buses being the most used mode of transport, "central and local government policy and public opinion all tend to neglect their contribution until, as at present, dramatic change is necessary". Bus policy was considered to "drift [...] punctuated only by the significant changes necessary to meet regulatory reform or budgetary restrictions".[3] Certainly, on this occasion, it has been budgetary pressures that have pushed bus policy up the agenda once again.

3. The Coalition Government's Spending Review in October 2010 included three decisions with implications for the bus industry:

  • an overall 28% reduction in local authority revenue expenditure from 2011-12;
  • changes in the formula for concessionary travel reimbursement from 2011-12;
  • a 20% reduction in the Bus Service Operators' Grant from 2012-13.

4. We launched our inquiry into the funding of bus services in England (outside London) in November 2010 in the light of the outcome of the Spending Review.[4] We received written evidence from 141 organisations and individuals. Oral evidence was heard between January and May 2011. We are grateful for all those who contributed evidence, both written and oral. We were advised throughout by Peter Hardy of JMP Consultants Ltd, an independent transport consultancy.[5]

5. From the outset of our inquiry, we were keen to hear the views of bus users about proposed changes to local services. In collaboration with the Parliamentary Outreach service, we alerted the public to our inquiry through the distribution of leaflets in libraries and citizens' advice bureaus, and the use of Parliament's Facebook page. We responded to several petitions about local bus services presented in the House of Commons by Members of Parliament. We also took oral evidence from a panel of bus users. The plethora of evidence we received from bus users proved extremely valuable to our inquiry, not only to illustrate the importance of local bus services but to give us an up-to-date account of the changes occurring across the country.

6. We decided not to focus on the broader issue of the regulation of the bus industry, in part because the Competition Commission was holding its own investigation into this matter in parallel to our inquiry.[6] We specifically focussed on bus services in England outside London.[7] The franchised, regulated London network, which is the responsibility of the Mayor of London, is very different to the largely deregulated structure of bus service provision elsewhere in England. Bus services in London have, in general, not been affected as significantly by the outcome of the Spending Review as services outside the capital.[8]

1   Department for Transport statistics, tables BUS 0103,TSGB0102, available at www2.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/  Back

2   Department for Transport, National Travel Survey, tables NTS 0205, NTS9902 Back

3   Ev 80 Back

4   Our terms of reference were to examine: the impact of the reduction in Bus Service Operators' Grant, including on community transport; the impact and reduction in local authority grant support to bus services and other changes to the funding of local authority bus schemes and services by the Department for Transport; the implementation and financial implications of free off-peak travel for elderly and disabled people on all local buses anywhere in England under the Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007; and how passengers' views are taken into account in planning bus services, and the role of Passenger Focus in this area. Back

5   Mr Hardy made formal declarations of interests which can be found in the formal minutes of the Transport Committee, Session 2010-12, Appendix B Back

6   The Competition Commission published its provisional findings in June 2011. Back

7   Responsibility for local bus services is devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Back

8   Transport for London's (TfL) overall grant funding from the Department for Transport was reduced by £2.17bn over the four years of the Spending Review, or 21% in real terms in 2014-15 compared to the base year of 2010-11. However, the overall DfT grant is just one element of TfL's funding, which also includes fares, borrowing and other sources of revenue, such as advertising and commercial partnerships. The Greater London Authority says that the reduction in DfT grant funding has, in part, been covered by increased ridership on the Tube, bus and rail network. "Mayor secures vital London transport investment and protects frontline services", Greater London Authority press release, 20 October 2010. Back

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Prepared 11 August 2011