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Cumbria, Hull, Rutland among councils suffering huge bus service loss

Public transport should be a cornerstone of England’s net zero plans, but cutbacks by local authorities risk increasing inequity and accessibility issues.

brown empty waiting shed

According to the i newspaper, 90% of council-run bus services have disappeared since 2010, with around 16million miles of route lost among the 10 worst-affected areas. Regional variations were also stark, with northern England seeing 32% of provision lost, compared with an average of 22% across the country. 

Residents in Cumbria and Hull were the  biggest victims, In Rutland, a staggering 70% of bus services have now been cut, 65% in Slough, with Stoke (64%), Bath (52%), and Warrington (52%) also among the areas that have made serious reductions to routes and frequency. 

‘The local authority supported services have pretty much disappeared since 2010,’ said Dr Tom Jarvis, principal researcher at Transport for the North (TfN). ‘People are being left very constrained. They are pretty much reliant on others for lifts, or they get taxis when they can afford them.’

The results come at a time when  local authority funding, and the relationship between councils and central government are hot political topics. Last month, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt  received widespread criticism at the fact his latest budget lacked much mention of net zero and climate responsibilities, and did very little to address the lack of power in the regions to enact policy that could contribute to environmental action. 

Meanwhile, in 2023 Birmingham City Council, the UK’s largest local authority, filed a section 114 notice, effectively declaring bankruptcy. Financial mismanagement and significant problems resulting in delays to a new IT system have been cited as major factors, but 14 other councils had filed notices by Christmas 2023 and it is feared 50% will be forced to follow suit in the next 18 months.

Budget cuts that began more than a decade ago under austerity measures have bit into spending power year-on-year, and in many cases councils now have around half the cash they did in 2010 in real terms. Coupled with the high inflation which has plagued the UK economy post pandemic, many authorities are now struggling to provide essential services. 

In related news, Warrington’s Own Buses recently welcomed 105 brand new electric vehicles, one of the UK’s largest fleets. Around the same time, Environment Journal reported on trial transportation projects in Sunderland and Shrewsbury, including self-driving shuttles and a new Very Light Rail design that could revolutionise rural commutes. 

More transport:

Westminster has the most eco-friendly drivers in Britain

WATCH: World’s first hydrogen-powered regional vertical take-off aircraft

Can TfL’s ‘Off-Peak Fridays’ boost public transport ridership in London?

Image: Sebastian Schuppik

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