Greater Manchester bucks national trend as local bus use increases

The guided busway has proven a huge success
The guided busway has proven a huge success

Greater Manchester’s buses covered 2.3 million more miles last year, new figures reveal.

But with England’s bus mileage dwindling to its lowest level in more than three decades elsewhere, campaigners and council chiefs blame rising car use, congestion and cuts to transport funding for the millions of miles lost.

In Greater Manchester, buses clocked up 60.9 million miles in 2018-19, the latest Department for Transport statistics show – up four per cent from the year before.

The local authority subsidised 17 per cent of these journeys last year, with the rest run by private companies for profit.

Buses covered 1.18 billion miles across England last year – the smallest coverage nationwide since 1986-87.

Outside of London, nearly two million fewer journeys were made by bus in 2018-19 than in the previous 12 months.

Alongside shrinking services, fares continued to rise in real terms.

Prices were hiked up 3.3 per cent on average across England last year, higher than the 1.9 per cent Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation over the same period.

Only 64 per cent of fare-paying passengers outside London say they are satisfied with the value for money of their journeys, according to a survey by watchdog Transport Focus.

People older than 65 and those with a disability are legally entitled to free bus passes for off-peak travel.

But with cash-strapped councils spending less and ditching discretionary items such as supported rural services, the Local Government Association warns that nearly half of the country’s bus routes face the chop.

Calling local bus services a “lifeline for our most vulnerable residents”, a spokesman for the association said more needs to be done to tackle the network’s “spiralling decline. Councils also want to see a fully-funded concessionary bus fare scheme, which is putting nearly half of all bus routes at risk.

It is vital the new government properly funds this scheme so councils can protect bus routes and reinvest in local networks.”