Bus services are a vital public service. But government cuts mean they are under threat.
That’s bad news for the public, who rely on buses to get to work, to shop and to get to other services such as hospitals and libraries.
It’s bad news for the economy and workers who rely on buses to get to work.
And it’s bad news for our members who work for bus companies and passenger transport authorities.
Save Our Buses
That is why UNISON is backing the Save Our Buses campaign, which seeks to highlight the impact of the government’s cuts and promote the value of bus services.
Communities outside major urban centres have been most badly hit: more than 1,000 services in these areas have already been reduced or withdrawn.
Bus services play a key role in providing services for all UNISON members.
The low-paid and women and are more likely to use buses.
Bus services are also important as a means of preventing social exclusion among the unemployed and people with disabilities.
More than two-thirds of job seekers don’t have a car.
But services are being scaled back in different parts of the country, which the Campaign for Better Transport is documenting on the Save Our Buses Website.
Map of service cuts.
The campaign’s research shows that over two-thirds of the 88 local authorities in England alone have already decided to make cutbacks to buses.
MPs, whose inquiry covered local bus services outside London, said they were not convinced “that the Competition Commission’s vision of widespread and sustained head-to-head competition is realistic or desirable”.
The Evening Standard, 13 September 2012, 21 June 2012 “Bus passengers get second class service”
Many more bus services are likely to be lost as 77% of local transport authorities in England are either planning to, or cannot rule out, further cuts in the future.
Communities outside major urban centres have been most badly hit, and the campaign shows that more than 1,000 services in these areas have already been reduced or withdrawn – that’s one in five of all council-supported bus services.
Economic impact of bus services
A recent report by the University of Leeds’ Institute for Transport Studies showed how important buses are for the economy as whole. It showed that:
- bus commuters generate over £64bn of economic output every year;
- people use the bus to make shopping and leisure trips worth £27.2bn a year;
- one in 10 bus commuters would have to look for another job if they couldn’t travel by bus.
More than 50% of students are frequent bus users and depend on the bus to access education or training.
Buses and Economic Growth, institute for transport studies, University of Leeds, June 2012 [PDF]
Meanwhile, between 1997 and 2010, the cost of motoring rose by 32.5%, rail fares by 66.2% and bus and coach tickets by 76.15%.
The war on motoring, myth or reality? IPPR report, August 2012 [PDF]
And it’s worth remembering that buses account for two-thirds of all journeys by public transport, and the industry employs 123,000 people.
The Campaign for Better Transport points out that local authorities provide subsidies for buses that are socially necessary but not commercially viable – but this is at risk because of a 28% cut to local authority transport revenue funding.
Bus services that are vital to people for many reasons – work, schools, shopping, hospital visits – are under threat as never before.
Dave Johnson, national secretary, UNISON
This is a real threat for the 25% of UK households who do not have access to a car. Even for rural households this figure is 10%; in built-up metropolitan areas it rises to 32% and in London 43%.
Buses Matter, Campaign for Better Transport, February 2011 [PDF]