New report shows bus key to achieving the policy goals of half of all Government departments across Whitehall

Bus in Manchester

-    Despite cross sector benefits, £500 million lost to bus services outside London since 2010 

-    Call for new dedicated ‘Connectivity Fund’ for bus services 

A report published today by pteg finds that the bus is key to achieving 46 policy goals of 12 of the 24 Departments across Whitehall including the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Treasury, Department of Health, Department for Education and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. In major urban areas outside London alone, bus networks are estimated to generate over £2.5bn in economic benefits against public funding of £0.5bn. However, the way in which bus services are funded is mired in complexity with no oversight within Whitehall of how the various funding streams from different Government departments impact on bus services overall. The report also shows that all the main forms of funding for bus services are under severe pressure – in particular those that come indirectly from the Department for Communities and Local Government which support bus services that bus companies will not provide on a commercial basis.

The report finds that: ‘The cumulative impact of public spending cuts on the six main funding sources for bus means that, by 2014/15, overall funding for bus networks outside London will be around £500 million lower than if 2010/11 funding levels had increased in line with inflation and the cost of concessionary reimbursement.’

The report sets out the consequences of continuing with the current funding regime for buses which include:

  • Shrinking labour markets with fewer people able to access areas of employment, especially in outlying areas
  • Skills and apprenticeships will be hit because of reduced access to further education
  • High street regeneration plans will be damaged because of reduced access to town centres
  • Increased pressure on congested road networks as some bus users transfer to car
  • Public health impacts as more people use a car for more trips and more people are isolated in their own homes through lack of transport

The report says: ‘Many of these impacts will be particularly felt by young people who will be particularly badly affected as they are especially reliant on the bus to provide them with access to jobs, education, training and leisure.’

The report calls for reform of the way buses are funded through a new ‘Connectivity Fund’ that would absorb existing BSOG funding for buses plus a further half a billion pounds to reflect the cross departmental benefits of supporting bus services and the sum lost to bus services outside London since 2010.

The report (‘Making the Connections: the cross-sector benefits of supporting bus services’) concludes that:

‘The bus is one of the biggest bargains available to transport policy makers in achieving a very broad range of transport, economic, environmental and social objectives in a cost effective way and in a timely fashion. Public funding for bus services reduces congestion for all road users, gets the workless into work, gets young people into education and training, and gets older and disabled people out of isolation. The long term costs to budgets across Whitehall of a declining bus network are far greater than ensuring a funding system for bus services that works. At present the way in which buses are funded is mired in complexity, fails to reflect the cross sector benefits that bus services provide, has no central oversight and is in decline.’

Chair of pteg, David Brown, said:

‘This report builds on what is already a strong evidence base for supporting bus services by providing each Whitehall Department with a clear and concise summary of how public support contributes to the delivery of their own policy goals. Some of these Departments have had far more generous funding settlements than those available to bus services – such as Health and Education. Others are under particular pressure to bring down their expenditure – such as DWP. This report joins the dots in its proposal to pool some of the existing funding streams for bus services into a single, dedicated, but devolved ‘Connectivity Fund’, that would be topped up by a wafer thin slice of funding from other Government Departments to reflect the benefits that they derive from the existence of a bus network. We believe that there’s growing acceptance within Government about the greater contribution that buses can make to policy goals. This now needs to be followed up with a serious look at how bus services are funded as this report clearly demonstrates that business as usual on bus funding will cost Whitehall departments more in the long run.’ 

Claire Haigh from Greener Journeys said:

“This report articulates in a clear and accessible format just how extensively buses underpin large sections of the economy.  Buses provide crucial access to employment, education, retail and leisure, health and other essential services.  They also provide support for businesses and local retail economies, facilitating £27 billion of retail spend.  The bus is the number one mode of choice for access to city centres, and more people commute to work by bus than all other forms of public transport combined, with those commuters generating £64 billion in economic output.  Buses are key to reducing carbon emissions and congestion, which is a major constraint on growth costing the UK economy at least £11 billion a year.  Buses also support a more active, healthy lifestyle, and they are a major tool in tackling isolation, and a lifeline for the elderly.  As this report clearly demonstrates, buses are key to achieving a whole range of Government’s policy objectives, and it will be an invaluable reference for policy makers across Whitehall.”

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said:

"This report clearly shows the wider benefits of buses to every government department, yet our ‘Save our Buses’ campaign has found that across the country bus services are being cut, putting those benefits at risk. Campaign for Better Transport strongly supports the idea of a ring-fenced Connectivity Fund proposal as the best way to fund buses properly and to give people the access they need to jobs, education, services and shops. The proposed Bus Bonus scheme will also help reduce barriers to work and congestion. We believe that whoever wins the next election, these ideas must be adopted by an incoming Government if they want to tackle unemployment and improve access to services".

For more contact Jonathan Bray on 0113 251 7445 / 0781 804 1485