Published on Tuesday, 28th November 2017


The government collects a raft of statistics on all sorts of things, some of which make interesting reading. An example of this is the latest figures on bus ridership by local authority area.


About half of all bus journeys in England are in London. With chronic congestion and little parking in the central area, the capital is quite different from the rest of the country and far more people of working age routinely use the bus to get to work. The regulatory environment is also different, with a longstanding system of bus franchising, which allows the Greater London Authority (and formerly central government) to set bus routes and fares. Elsewhere in the country services are determined by bus companies, with local government’s role being only to pay for senior bus passes and to subsidise routes that would not otherwise run. This will soon change in areas with regional mayors. The government has granted them powers to regulate bus services. The hope is this will lead to a more coherent network and over time more passengers. These powers are not available in other parts of the country, here included.


Generally speaking bus usage outside of London has been declining for decades. The introduction of free travel for pensioners did slow the decline for a while, but within the last year passenger numbers are down another 2.4%, which is not out of line with the long run trend.


Numbers in the southeast have been more positive and in Portsmouth the numbers in 2015/6 (the latest year for which statistics are available), passenger numbers are about 5% higher than in 2009/10. About 40% of journeys are concessionary journeys, the large majority of which are on pensioner bus passes.


Bus usage is lower in rural and small-town areas and higher in cities, particularly big cities. Compared to comparable areas, bus usage per head in Portsmouth iis somewhat lower than average. The figures in Brighton and Reading are more than double ours and Southampton is 50% higher, but other areas such as the Medway Towns and Slough have usage levels a third lower. On the other hand, in most other cities the figures are falling, sometimes sharply. An extreme case is Warrington, where ridership in 2015/6 is about 40% lower than it was six years before.


You can see all this stats online here.


It is also worth noting that local government has no real power over bus companies, although it can influence bus usage through the bus lanes, bus stations and bus stops it is responsible for. Route subsidies are disappearing across the country, with Hampshire, Northamptonshire and Kent County Councils all looking at withdrawing all their support from April. In common with most urban areas, where services are more frequent, Portsmouth has only a very limited subsidised service.


Tags: Transport