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Half Of All English Bus Routes At Risk Of Being Scrapped, Councils Say

HuffPost UK logo HuffPost UK 09/02/2019 George Bowden
a group of people standing in front of a bus: People passing a bus, stationary at a bus stop, in central Manchester, England, United Kingdom, on Monday 4th January 2016. Nearly 450 buses in England will be fitted with green technology to cut harmful emissions by up to 90%, after successful bids for around ��7 million of Department for Transport funding. The Department for Transport has said: "Due to their high mileage and long operational life, introducing greener buses can significantly help air quality in town and city centres. The buses upgraded from this fund will complete more than a million journeys a year." (Photo by Jonathan Nicholson/NurPhoto) (Photo by NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images) © NurPhoto via Getty Images People passing a bus, stationary at a bus stop, in central Manchester, England, United Kingdom, on Monday 4th January 2016. Nearly 450 buses in England will be fitted with green technology to cut harmful emissions by up to 90%, after successful bids for around ��7 million of Department for Transport funding. The Department for Transport has said: "Due to their high mileage and long operational life, introducing greener buses can significantly help air quality in town and city centres. The buses upgraded from this fund will complete more than a million journeys a year." (Photo by Jonathan Nicholson/NurPhoto) (Photo by NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nearly half of bus routes in England are at risk of being scrapped due to a lack of funding, councils have claimed.

Analysis for the Local Government Association (LGA) found that the free bus pass scheme was underfunded by an estimated £652 million in 2017/18.

Councils say they are being forced to fill the gap between this government funding and what the scheme costs.

Free bus passes for off-peak travel are a legal entitlement for people aged over 65, or those with a disability.

An electronic advertisement for a McDonalds food is seen at a bus stop on Oxford Street in London, Britain, May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville © Getty An electronic advertisement for a McDonalds food is seen at a bus stop on Oxford Street in London, Britain, May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville But budgetary constraints mean councils are spending less on discretionary items such as free peak travel, post-school transport and supported rural services.

Nearly half of all bus routes in England receive partial or complete subsidies from councils.

The LGA warned that these services are at risk as local authorities will struggle to maintain current levels of support unless they are given more funding.

It wants the Government to reinstate the full funding of the costs of the national concessionary travel scheme.

An electronic advertisement for a McDonalds food is seen at a bus stop on Oxford Street in London, Britain, May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville © Getty An electronic advertisement for a McDonalds food is seen at a bus stop on Oxford Street in London, Britain, May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LGA transport spokesman Martin Tett said: “An estimated funding gap of £652 million a year for concessionary travel is unsustainable for councils already struggling to protect other subsidised bus travel in rural areas, or helping young people with their travel costs.

“Properly funding the national free bus pass scheme is essential if the Government wants councils to be able to maintain our essential bus services, reduce congestion and protect vital routes.

England, London, Double Decker Bus on Tower Bridge (Photo by: Prisma by Dukas/UIG via Getty Images) © Getty England, London, Double Decker Bus on Tower Bridge (Photo by: Prisma by Dukas/UIG via Getty Images) “If this is not addressed in the Spending Review it could lead to older people having a free bus pass but no bus to travel on.”

The number of local bus passenger journeys in England fell by 85 million or 1.9% in the year ending March 2018, according to recent Department for Transport figures.

The LGA says more than 3,000 supported bus services have been reduced, altered or withdrawn since 2010/11.

People walk past a bus in the financial district of Canary Wharf in London, Britain, July 10, 2018.      REUTERS/Kevin Coombs © Getty People walk past a bus in the financial district of Canary Wharf in London, Britain, July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “It is for councils to decide which bus operations to support in their areas, but we help to subsidise costs through around £250 million worth of investment every year.

″£42 million of this is devolved to local authorities and a further £1 billion from Government funds the free bus pass scheme, benefiting older and disabled people across the country.”

HuffPost UK reported last month on the impact of one bus route’s withdrawal on those who relied upon it.

While it was revealed that private bus firms have earned billions amid savage cuts to services.

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