English city regions are warning of large reductions to bus services amid a financial crisis.
A third of bus services in the Greater Manchester area could be cut if UK government grants do not continue past March, the city’s Transport Committee has claimed.
In a statement, the committee – which consists of the ten Greater Manchester Councils, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the Mayor of Greater Manchester – warned that residents would be “adversely impacted” if the support comes to an end.
Last week, the Urban Transport Group – a coalition of the UK’s regional transport authorities – released a report warning that bus patronage in metropolitan areas (excluding London) would only be 70 percent of pre-Covid levels within a year of funding ending due to a combination of service reductions, higher fares and changing travel habits.
Currently, average weekly bus patronage outside of London is 64.5 percent of pre-Covid levels, according to the Department for Transport. The report also projected that over a quarter (26 percent) of bus services could be lost without further funding.
End of the line
Government financial support for bus services in regional English cities is set to expire on 5 April.
“As reflected by the report published by the Urban Transport Group this week – and following discussions with local bus operators – we expect around one third of our bus services to be affected, with a wide-scale reduction in frequencies and around 30 routes withdrawn completely,” Manchester’s statement said.
“If this were to happen communities would be cut off. It would have a very significant impact on our economic recovery as a city region, and on our plans to be greener and fairer.”
The committee said the region requires approximately £30 million (US$40.8 million) in government funds to stabilise the bus market, with another £40 million needed for the city’s Metrolink in the next financial year.
Laura Shoaf, Chair of the Urban Transport Group and Chief Executive at West Midlands Combined Authority, commented: “We are standing on the precipice of a huge reduction in bus services which could deal a devastating blow to passengers who rely upon them.
“Once public transport patronage is lost, it is very hard to get back, and we are facing a vicious circle of decline whereby reduced bus networks lead to services being less attractive or buses simply not being available, which forces operators to raise fares, further reducing passenger numbers.”
Elsewhere, more than 30 bus routes are set to be affected in Newcastle and North Tyneside in a first wave of cuts from the end of March. Routes in the North East could be cut by up to 17 percent, operators say.
A spokesman for the UK Department for Transport said: “We have provided over £1.7 billion to keep bus services running across the country throughout the pandemic, and are working closely with operators and local transport authorities to protect services after April.
“The government has committed to investing £3bn into bus services by 2025, including £1.2 billion to improve fares, services and infrastructure, and a further £525 million for zero-emission buses.”
Image: RussellHarryLee (Flickr)
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