PEOPLE travelling on buses in Portsmouth are being ‘abandoned’, it is claimed, with fewer journey miles covered by operators — reflecting a ‘shocking’ national trend.
Analysis from the BBC Shared Data unit has revealed the UK bus network has shrunk by eight per cent in the past decade, with 134 million fewer miles driven by buses each year — the equivalent of more than 5,000 trips around the equator.
It comes despite passenger numbers increasing marginally to 0.7 per cent. England’s network is the smallest it has been since 1991.
Travelling by bus remains the most popular way of getting around in the UK with five per cent of all trips in England taken on the bus compared to two per cent on the railways.
The worrying national pattern is reflected in Portsmouth with the area seeing a decrease of three per cent in overall miles covered by buses from 2013 to 2017 - or 1,400 miles. This is despite an increase in passenger journeys of 1.8 million during the same time.
Speaking of the overall decline of miles covered by buses in the last four years, Chris Todd, local groups manager for Campaign for Better Transport, said he was not surprised by the trend.
‘While the number [134 million fewer miles each year] does not surprise me - it does shock me,’ he said.
‘We live in a society that is quite prepared to completely abandon certain groups of people and leave them with no options of getting around. Buses are not luxuries for people, they are a necessity.’
Councillor Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman said the development was a worry.
‘It is hugely concerning to see such a decrease in bus journeys,’ he said. ‘Buses provide a vital service for our communities and a lifeline for our most vulnerable residents to go shopping, pick up medication, attend doctor appointments or socialise with friends.’
The Department for Transport said it was aware of the importance of buses was providing up to £250m every year to support services.
‘Buses connect people, homes and businesses. That’s why we have given councils extra powers to work in partnership with bus companies to improve the service passengers expect and deserve,’ a spokesperson said.
Referring to the £250m, the spokesperson added: ‘This benefits people up and down the country and supports up to 10 million older and disabled people in England who get free off-peak bus travel.’