Bus services are a vital public service. But government cuts are placing them under threat.

That’s bad news for the public, who rely on buses, bad news for the economy and workers and bad news for our members who work for bus companies and passenger transport authorities.


When bus services are axed, it can isolate communities

“We are living in isolation” – Michelle Wilkes describes the impact of bus service cuts on her community

Securing the future of our public services

UNISON manifesto sets out the challenges facing public services and policies needed to meet them

EPSU leader spells out the Europe we want

EPSU general secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan’s message to UNISON’s local government conference was that we could change Europe for the betterment of the majority of its people

Chancellor urged to end bus funding crisis

UNISON joins campaign coalition calling on George Osborne to take action in the Budget

UNISON urges members to lobby their MPs over new ‘gagging law’

New law threatens to gag charities, NGOs, blogs, think-tanks, trade unions and other campaigning organisations by severely restricting how much money they can spend on political campaigning in the year running up to a general election

The facts

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.


Key fact

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major urban centres have been most badly hit: more than 1,000 services in these areas have already been reduced or withdrawn.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.

Socially necessary

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]

Your stories

Dawn Churchill

from Royal Derby Hosptial


I have a two-bus journey to and from work. But the local bus now only runs once an hour after 7.35pm, so there can be a long wait if it doesn’t coincide with shifts.

“A ‘health hopper’ service – which runs from the hospital to town – finishes at 8.20pm now, when our late shifts finish at 8.45pm – and they don’t run on Sundays.

“Other people get taxis, which are expensive, so I have to try and get a lift with someone.”

Andrew Goring

from West Yorkshire PTE branch


In my wildest nightmares, I never predicted what this ConDem government is doing to bus services in this country – the wholesale sell-off of buses to the private sector and service cuts on a scale we’ve never seen before.


“The ones who will suffer most from these cuts to services are the ones who can afford it least: women, children and the elderly,”

Mr Goring points to families in Buckinghamshire who are being forced to pay £600 a year for their children to travel to school because of service cuts.

There are entire villages in North Yorkshire being cut off from the rest of the world, making it harder for residents to get to essential services such as health care, he adds.

The lack of bus services makes it difficult for anyone without a car even to visit friends and family.