In this year alone (2016), total bus mileage in England outside London decreased by 2.8 per cent, the largest annual decrease since 2003/04.
Councils have a statutory duty to subsidise funding for the concessionary travel scheme in England. The scheme provides pensioners and disabled people with free off-peak travel on all local bus services in England.
Due to financial reductions, local authorities have been compelled to divert money from discretionary subsidised bus services (such as free peak travel, community transport services and reduced faces), in order to continue supporting the concessionary fares scheme.
This has led to a reduction in council-supported bus services by more than 12 per cent in the last year alone. Council-supported bus services in rural areas have reduced by approximately 40 per cent in the last decade, and in urban areas by just over a quarter.
The estimated cost of the statutory scheme to councils last year was approximately £764 million. Due to reductions in revenue support grant funding and without a designated funding stream, councils estimate there is at least a £200 million shortfall for councils in funding the concessionary fares scheme.
For this reason, we are calling on the Government to use the Autumn Statement to fully fund the Concessionary Fares Scheme. We have also called for the £250 million Bus Service Operators Grant to be devolved to councils to help target support to vital services.