UK bus coverage hits a 28-year low

UK bus coverage hits a 28-year low

The UKs bus network shrunk to the lowest overall coverage last seen in the 1980s, shrinking almost 134 million miles over the past decade alone.

This figure alone highlights the need for an alternative transport method for rural areas which can pick up the pieces from where the bus companies have left cracks up and down the country.

The current low in bus coverage across the UK has being coming for quite some time after seeing further funding cuts by Government leaving many areas without a bus route available at all, ultimately leaving residents isolated, especially the elderly, who depend on public transport to make their regular trips to shops, GPs etc.

Although there is a glimmer of hope, as some residents have decided to take on the role by themselves. Introducing Community Transport, which has stepped in to plug the gaps which were left by bus companies, but often this isn’t enough as Community Transport can’t cover the huge demand currently needed to properly tackle the issue.

The government has encouraged councils and bus companies to work together to try and halt the decline.declining bus coverage

Chris Todd, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “We live in a society that is quite prepared to completely abandon certain groups of people and leave them with no options of getting around.”

Cumbria’s Western Dales company runs its route with the help of 20 volunteer drivers, highlighting the amazing community spirit which is within these isolated communities.

One of the directors, John Carey, said the National lottery funded company is a lifeline for hundreds throughout the county.

He said: “Without this people would have been cut off, absolutely.”

“They wouldn’t have been able to go to the shops. It has preserved the mobility of elderly residents in the area.”

Community Transport operations don’t just provide transport, drivers aid residents on and off the bus, carry shopping bags from the supermarket & load onto the bus, drop passengers off outside their house often aiding them down the path right to their front door. CT’s aren’t just an alternative transport service they offer care and compassion with what they do because they truly want to support the community and help residents to stay active, go about their daily lives and most importantly interact with fellow residents, instead of sitting in their homes with no interaction, which is often for days on end.

There are a number of reasons why Britain’s bus network is shrinking in size, according to John Disney, a Transport Researcher and lecturer at Nottingham Business School.

He said: “Commercial operators have definitely, over the last 10 years, become much more risk-averse and so they are really concentrating on what they consider to be their core routes and are not really bothered about much else.”

He said at the same time many local authorities, which would have stepped up to subsidise unprofitable routes, have reduced this spending.

But the trade body for operators, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), denied the claim that companies were becoming risk-averse.

A spokeswoman said: “Where routes become unviable, sound business decisions need to be taken and there are many examples of operators continuing to operate lightly used and uneconomic services, or developing innovative ways of meeting passengers’ needs.”

UK bus coverage

The UK Division in terms of bus coverage

In England, the scale of the bus network has fallen to levels last seen in 90’s, even though passenger numbers have seen an increase and are now 8% higher than they were in 1991.

The figures show regional variations, with the North West being the worst hit losing almost a quarter of miles from its network in just a decade.

Whereas London, the East of England and the South East were the only regions to report a bus mileage increase in the past decade.


According to Annual Bus Statistics: England 2016/17 – The capital now accounts for 50% of all journeys occurred in England with journeys in London totalling 2.24bn, with 2.20bn of all journeys occurring in England outside of London.

This has prompted campaigners to describe England’s public transport system as “two-tier”.

Top 10 hardest hit areas in England: Bus journey miles lost over four years

  1. Bracknell Forest – 26.5%
  2. Central Bedfordshire – 25.5%
  3. Shropshire – 24.5%
  4. Surrey – 24%
  5. Warrington – 22%
  6. Gloucestershire – 22%
  7. Wokingham – 22%
  8. Stoke-on-Trent – 20.5%
  9. Warwickshire – 19%
  10. North Yorkshire – 18.5%

For information on Community Transport groups in your area, visit the CTA website.