The latest departmental figures show a slight increase in local bus fares in England, while the provisional number of local bus passenger journeys remains unchanged compared with a year earlier. Final figures will be published in the annual bus statistics released in September. The bus market outside London is deregulated and decisions regarding the provision of individual bus services, including setting the level of fares, is primarily a commercial matter for bus operators.
Figures from the Minister’s own Department show that 121 bus routes in the north-west of England have been cut in the last five years, while fares have risen by an average of 25%. When will the Government give more powers to all communities—whether or not they want an elected mayor—to control fares, set routes and integrate services?
The Government support the bus sector, which is the backbone of our public transport sector, in lots of different ways, including through the bus service operators grant of £250 million in England this year. The proposals in the buses Bill will include opportunities right across the country for more local control, including the development of franchising, which the Manchester combined authorities are taking forward. The Bill will be published later in this Session.
Is it not clear that the Government have lost the plot for bus users outside London? Their own latest statistics show that journeys there were down by 11 million and fares up by 3.6% last year. Two thousand bus routes countrywide have been lost through cuts since 2010. London, with franchise powers to set routes and fares, has rising bus use. Why are this Government blocking them for communities elsewhere in England—unless they have an elected mayor, which many do not want, forced on them? Is this not sham rather than real localism?
Bus fares in Greater London have, in fact, been rising faster than those in non-metropolitan areas. As for the issue of franchising and local mayors, it is all about local control and decision accountability. A range of proposals will be published later in the year with the buses Bill.