The Evolution of Local Bus Use in England: 1985/86 – 2015/16

By Rachael Buckley

More people commute to work by bus than by all other public transport combined. Yet, local bus services across England are under threat. Government reductions in local authority funding have caused significant cuts to bus services supported by local authorities. Many believe that the importance of buses is being forgotten about and more needs to be done to protect vital routes and services.

Using the latest Department for Transport data (at the time of creation) we have created this infographic, which explores the evolution of bus use in England since 1985/86 to 2015/16, helping to visualise if buses are as vital as many people still believe.

Evolution of local bus infographic

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Key local bus use statistics

Share of journeys by public transport type

Buses accounted for three-fifths of journeys using public transport in 2015/16.

Bus Mileage

1.25 billion bus service miles were run in England in 2015/16. This is the equivalent of driving to the moon and back 10,460 times!

Local bus passenger journeys

Bus use fell in the early 1990s before seeing an increase in recent times. Usage has stayed fairly consistent since, with overall bus usage only 4% lower than 1985/86.

Proportion of local bus journeys in England outside London and London

Levels of bus use in London and England outside London has considerably changed since the mid 1980s. Bus passenger journeys in London doubled since 1985/86.

Passenger journeys per head of population

Out of 88 local authorities in England outside London, 71 had a decrease in bus use per head from 2009/10* to 2015/16. In general, more urban local authorities have above average levels of bus use when compared with rural areas.

Concessionary travel

There were 1.53 billion concessionary bus passenger journeys in 2015/16.

Concessionary journeys (elderly or disabled, and youth concessions) made up 34% of all bus passenger journeys in England in 2015/16.

Bus fleet

The number of buses used by local bus operators has remained at similar levels over the last 10 years at around 35,000 buses. Around a quarter of buses were in London.

Commercial and local authority supported bus mileage

Supported mileage is now at its lowest proportion at 15.2% of total mileage.

Supported bus service funding

Since 201-11, £98.5 million has been cut from supported bus services in England; a 33% reduction. over 500 routes were reduced or completely withdrawn in 2016/17 as a result. 

Small bus growth

The number of small buses (up to 22 passengers) owned by bus operating companies has grown significantly over the last 30 years.