While much attention is lavished on rail fare rises, big rises are happening on the buses. New information from the Department for Transport shows that, on average, bus passengers faced quite significant rises between September 2011 and September 2012.
The bus fares index is compiled from data provided by a representative sample of operators. While average figures are always of limited use, especially with something as local as bus services, they make stark the issues facing bus passengers.
There was an increase in bus fares of six per cent in England (5.4% in London, 5.2% in metropolitan areas and 7.2% in non-metropolitan areas). The all-items retail prices index increased by 2.6% over this period. Over the same period there was an increase of 5.4% in fares in Scotland, and an increase of 9.1% in Wales. Ouch.
Comparing July to September 2012 with the same three months in the previous year, there was a 0.1% decrease in bus passenger journeys in England with a 2.4% increase for London, a 1.8% per cent decrease in metropolitan areas and a decrease of 3.2% in non-metropolitan areas. Over the same period there was a decrease of 2.1% in passenger journeys in Scotland, and a decrease of 3.2% in Wales.
Use of bus services is very much driven by how the High Street is doing. But fare rises of this scale cannot help when passengers are choosing how to travel. We are doing research this year to probe more about bus passengers and value for money which should help shed light on this debate.