• Since 2008/09, total estimated net government support has fallen by 34% in London, 20% in English metropolitan areas (excluding London) and 29% in English non-metropolitan areas.

This chart shows the change in different elements of government funding on bus services. Support from local and central government comes in three different forms:

  • Net public transport support direct payments for operators providing tendered or supported bus services
  • Concessionary travel – reimbursement to bus operators for statutory and discretionary concessionary fares
  • The Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) – a fuel duty rebate paid to bus operators.

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

In England, government funding for bus services was £2.1bn in 2018/19, 29% lower in real terms than its peak in 2008/09 (compared with its peak a decade earlier). Funding has decreased across all three categories: down by 36% for net public transport support, 11% for concessionary travel and 51% for the BSOG.

The amount of spending varies across regions.

  • In 2018/19, from a total £2.1bn of government funding for bus services, £0.8bn was spent in London, £0.5bn in other metropolitan areas and £0.8bn in non-metropolitan areas.
  • In 2018/19, net public transport support was five times higher in London than in other metropolitan areas, and four times higher than in non-metropolitan areas. Spending on concessionary fares and the BSOG was higher outside the capital.

Although bus services in London are operated under contract with Transport for London, bus services in the rest of Great Britain are operated by private companies that do not have a legal obligation to run loss-making services. Local authorities have an option to subsidise ‘socially necessary’ routes that would not otherwise be provided by private operators, due to weak profit incentives.

Increased funding can help to increase bus routes and service frequency and to reduce fares, making buses more affordable. This can help to connect people to job opportunities and services. Complementary policies that support bus use, such as lane prioritisation, can also help.

  • Funding estimates are adjusted for inflation and presented in 2018/19 price terms.
  • 2009/10 figures contain an additional element of funding included in capital charges that for other years is not reported, therefore it is not directly comparable with other years.

Source: Department for Transport, Table BUS0502b

Further reading

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How transport offers a route to better health

25 February 2021

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