• Between 1991/92 and 2018/19, bus journeys per person increased by 39% in London and 6% in the South East.
  • All other regions of the UK have seen declines in bus journeys per person over the past 30 years, ranging from a decrease of 55% in the North East to a decrease of 11% in the East of England.

This chart presents the percentage change in bus passenger journeys per person in each region of Great Britain, compared to the base value in 1991/92.

Bus services can support a wide range of policy objectives that are important for health through increasing economic and social participation. In some regions, especially in rural areas and isolated communities, buses are the only means of public transport that enable people to connect with other areas.

Between 1991/92 and 2019/20, bus passenger journeys per person decreased by 13% in England, 40% in Scotland and 39% in Wales.

The aggregate figure for England hides large variations across different regions.

  • Bus passenger journeys per person have decreased by 55% in the North East, 50% in Yorkshire and the Humber and 46% in the West Midlands.
  • Bus passenger journeys per person have increased by 39% in London and by 6% in the South East.

The difference in bus usage is partly due to how different schemes operate. Bus services in London operate through Transport for London (TfL) that have introduced policies supporting greater bus use, such as the congestion charge, additional priority bus lanes, an advanced smart ticketing system, better passenger information, regulated fares and a 24-hour bus service.

Outside London, bus services were deregulated with the aim of improving services and reducing public spending through greater private sector competition. Bus routes operate for a profit, so reduced funding and usage can lead to a cycle of higher prices, further falls in usage and eventual closure of routes. The Bus Services Act (2017) gave metro mayors new powers to use franchising agreements in the same way as TfL has in London.

Policy action can clearly make a difference to bus provision. Providing combined local authorities with access to franchising powers could help improve local bus services. Further investment in services and policies that support bus use is also required.

  • There was a break in the local bus series (outside London) due to changes in the estimation methodology from 2004/05.

Source: Department of Transport data, BUS0108_per_head

Further reading

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How transport offers a route to better health

25 February 2021

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Long read

Transport affects the health of people across society, in multiple ways. Investing in transport is...

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