An­gry at rail fare rises? Lo­cal bus ticket prices are ris­ing just as fast

The cost of bus travel has risen as much as trains – and they’re more pop­u­lar, dis­cov­ers

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Money -

Bus fare in­creases have flown un­der the radar for decades, de­spite ris­ing just as fast as train fares and the fact that buses are used by more peo­ple.

Out­cry over rail fare in­creases – this year of 3.1pc – has be­come an an­nual tra­di­tion, as the over­all cost of com­mut­ing by train has risen by 45pc since 2010. But cam­paign­ers have pointed out that bus pas­sen­gers have had it just as tough.

Ac­cord­ing to the Govern­ment’s Na­tional Travel Sur­vey pub­lished last year, the num­ber of jour­neys taken by bus far out­strips those taken by train. Both modes of trans­port have seen fare rises above the rate of inflation.

Ex­clud­ing Lon­don buses and the Tube, the av­er­age per­son trav­elled by bus 37 times in 2017 and only 21 times by rail. Over­all, 6pc of all jour­neys were by bus, com­pared with just 2pc by train.

Re­search sug­gests rail travel is mainly con­cen­trated in Lon­don and the South East, with ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in par­tic­u­lar heav­ily re­liant on bus travel. A study by polling agency Yougov showed that 39pc of peo­ple did not set foot on a train in the past 12 months, with most mak­ing fewer than two jour­neys.

The Cam­paign for Bet­ter Trans­port re­vealed in Oc­to­ber that govern­ment fund­ing for buses, which is largely pro­vided by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, fell by more than £20m in 2017-18 alone.

Dar­ren Shirley, the group’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, said: “Bus ser­vices are the back­bone of lo­cal pub­lic trans­port sys­tems and are vi­tal for the econ­omy, to get peo­ple into work or school and to ac­cess es­sen­tial ser­vices.

“Buses are un­der threat from cuts to fund­ing, which is lead­ing to with­drawal of ser­vices or in­creased fares, and are the only form of trans­port with­out a na­tional in­vest­ment strat­egy. The Govern­ment must re­alise the im­por­tance of bus ser­vices and do more to help sup­port the lo­cal pub­lic trans­port net­works serv­ing ur­ban and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties alike. The first step would be to have a co­her­ent pol­icy to sup­port buses.”

Af­ter the rail fare in­creases, which came into force on Wednesday, com­muters are pay­ing more than £800 a year ex­tra for their sea­son tick­ets com­pared with 2010. It is dif­fi­cult to make com­par­isons with buses, as prices are set re­gion­ally.

Trans­port Secretary Chris Grayling an­nounced a new rail­card giv­ing dis­counts to 16 and 17-year-olds, as well as an extension to the “mil­len­nial” rail­card for those aged 26 to 30. There are also var­i­ous dis­counts for stu­dents who use the bus.

Bus fares and routes have been hit by cuts to lo­cal govern­ment fund­ing

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