In 2019, buses accounted for over 50% of public transport journeys in England outside London, and they are particularly important for people on lower incomes. The majority of local buses are commercial services but central and local public funding support shows their importance to the wider economy and society. The Department for Transport has a long-standing objective to reverse the decline in bus use across England. In September 2019, it set out its intention to develop a national strategy to provide “a better deal for bus users”. In February 2020, it announced a new £5 billion, 5-year funding package to overhaul bus and cycle links for every region outside London.
This report examines the value for money of the local bus service system in England outside London. It will look at:
- why bus services are important and how they are delivered and funded;
- what government has done to try to improve bus services and with what success; and
- what government will need to get right in order to achieve its long-term aims .
During our fieldwork, the COVID-19 crisis led to drastic reductions in bus travel across the country. It is too early to conclude on the lasting impacts. However, as bus use gradually increases, the Department will need to refocus on its long-term bus travel objectives.