The number of Brits using buses to get around has declined to the lowest figure in a decade, official figures from Transport for London (TfL) have revealed.
The figures show 4.5 billion bus trips were made between 2015 and 2016, 119 million fewer than the year before – the lowest since 2006 and a drop of 2.6 per cent.
London had been on an upward trend, but a three per cent drop in journeys recorded over the same period ended a period of growth that last saw a decline in 2012.
Record-high levels of congestion is thought to be the biggest reason behind the issue, with journeys in London slowed down by traffic so much so that punters are thought to be walking the journey instead, saving themselves a few quid and getting healthier in the process.
In an attempt to fix the problem, Mayor Sadiq Khan introduced his bus ‘Hopper’ fare scheme, which allows your second journey to be free if made within 30 minutes of the first.
It is not just London, either. Services throughout the country are said to be suffering from a ‘national congestion crisis’, including in Glasgow, Gloucestershire and Oxford. Journey times increased by eight per cent in the West Midlands over a seven-year period, according to a separate study from 2016.
Meanwhile bus journeys in Oxford, where bus usage is some of the highest in the UK, reportedly dropped below an average speed of 10mph.
An average fare increase of 1.8 per cent and a 1.6 per cent rise in the Retail Price Index of inflation is thought to be another issue putting Brits off taking the bus, no doubt emphasised by increasingly high living costs.
Then there is the fact councils are running fewer and fewer services, meaning those who would normally get the bus are having to find other ways.
“The news that bus use is falling in London is worrying, but as buses are now moving only marginally faster through the city than the average adult can walk, it’s hardly surprising,” CBT public transport campaigner Lianna Etkind commented.
Speaking in a study of bus speeds across the UK in 2016 commissioned by Greener Journeys campaigners, Plymouth visiting professor and former Commission for Integrated Transport chairman Professor David Begg made it clear what the biggest threat to buses is.
“Traffic congestion is a disease which, left unchecked, will destroy the bus sector. This is a dire and sensational prediction, but the evidence uncovered in this research leads to no other conclusion,” he said.
“Urgent action is required from industry, local government and Whitehall to reduce people’s reliance on cars and encourage more sustainable modes of transport,” he added.