New research reveals 1 in 4 bus services have disappeared in a decade – urgent action needed

4 April 2022

Campaign for Better Transport research has revealed that more than one in four bus services in England (27 per cent) have been lost in the last decade, with the pandemic having a devastating effect.

The transport charity is calling for a national, Government-led campaign to encourage people back on board and turn around the fortune of buses.

  • Campaign for Better Transport’s research shows that more than a quarter (27 per cent) of bus services in England (as measured by vehicle miles) have vanished in the last decade
  • The number of bus services (as measured by ‘live’ bus registrations) dropped from 16,913 in March 2012, to 12,067 in March 2021 – a decline of 29 per cent across England
  • The biggest drop has been as a result of the pandemic: in the eight years between 2011/12-2018/19, bus vehicle miles in England dropped by ten per cent, whereas in the two years between March 2019 and March 2021, they fell by almost double that (18 per cent)
  • The regions with the biggest declines are the North West and the East of England, both losing 38 per cent of services, followed by the East Midlands with a 35 per cent loss.

Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Buses are relied upon by millions of people and should play a central role in a green transport future, but they have been struggling for some time, and the pandemic has made things much worse. The Government must recognise the need for a national campaign to attract passengers back to public transport.”

Given the strong Government messaging in the early part of the pandemic to avoid public transport, the charity believes that there is a segment of the public that will not return until the government overtly tells them it is safe to do so. The Government campaign should be accompanied by fare incentives and offers to encourage people back on board.

The charity contrasted last week’s 5p cut in fuel duty in the UK with moves to cut public transport fares in countries such as New Zealand and Germany.

Mr Tuohy added: “Last week’s Spring Statement included a tax break for car drivers with a 5p cut in fuel duty, but nothing for public transport users, despite fares having risen at a far higher rate than fuel. The Government says it wants people to use public transport more and drive less, but its failure to provide any financial incentives for bus users makes a mockery of its levelling up and carbon reduction ambitions.”


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Notes to Editors

  • The data on bus cuts, including regional data, and all sources, can be found in this data sheet produced by Campaign for Better Transport.

  • Transport for Wales launched a campaign to get people using public transport again on 28 March 2022. The Real Social Network campaign is accompanied by fare incentives and offers.
  • Germany and New Zealand are both cutting public transport fares in reaction to the cost of living crisis.
  • According to the RAC Foundation, between March 2012 and March 2022 bus and coach fares have risen by 57.7 per cent, while petrol went up by 19 per cent (from 138.96p to 165.89p) and diesel by 21 per cent (from 146.16p to 177.34p).
  • “Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.” – Grant Shapps in the foreword to Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge, March 2020.
  • Campaign for Better Transport operates in England and Wales. Campaign for Better Transport’s vision is for all communities to have access to high quality, sustainable transport that meets their needs, improves quality of life and protects the environment. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).