The shape of changing bus demand in England

This 2020 report from the Independent Transport Commission investigates changes to bus travel demand and the bus market in England since the 2000s. Buses are identified as an important source of mobility for many across the country; however, usage has been falling over recent decades, especially outside of London. The report provides useful insights into the accessibility of our town centres and high streets.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

This report from the Independent Transport Commission investigates changes to bus travel demand and the bus market in England since the 2000s. Drawing on a number of research reports, statistics, and charts from sources such as the Department for Transport and the National Travel Survey, the report presents evidence on overall bus market trends; bus usage by demographic groups; trends by Local Authority Area; and recent research on bus travel demand. With a key purpose of bus journeys being for shopping trips, this report therefore provides useful insights into the accessibility of town centres and high streets across England. Some key findings from the report are summarised below.

Some key findings

Overall bus usage trends 

  • Whilst shopping has historically been the most common reason for bus usage, it has experienced the steepest decline of all bus journey purposes.
  • The number of bus journeys in England outside London has declined by about 15% since the 2008 economic crash.
  • Bus usage is higher in London than the rest of England, but has also experienced some decline since 2014.
  • Since 2009, regular ‘bus users’ in England have fallen 47%-42% in London, and 21%-18% outside of London.
  • The bus market is becoming focused on a smaller number of high-intensity users.

Bus usage and demographics

  • More bus journeys are taken by women than men, but the gap is narrowing.
  • Bus usage is highest in older teens (17-20), including students, and in the over 60s age groups, but has been falling.
  • The intensity in bus usage has increased most in younger men, aged 17-39, corresponding with falls in driving licences and car usage.
  • Bus usage has fallen across all income levels but most steeply for lower income groups.
  • Those places bucking the trend in bus usage decline tend to be in Southern England.

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