Huge decline of North East bus services laid bare as almost 40 million miles wiped off routes

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Stark figures have laid bare the massive decline of the North East’s bus network.

The number of miles being driven each year by buses across the region has plummeted by nearly 29 million since 2010, a drop of more than 30% as timetables have been slashed.

There was a cut of more than 8% in the 12 months up to March 2023 alone, according to Labour’s analysis of Department for Transport (DfT) statistics, and that period does not include the impact of the crippling Go North East strike that wreaked havoc on the region’s bus services in the latter part of last year.

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Labour accused the Conservative government of failing to fix the nation’s “broken” bus system since coming to power in 2010 and said it would return the North East’s privately-run services to public control.

The Go North East Q3 bus in Newcastle city centre. Photo: NCJ Media.The Go North East Q3 bus in Newcastle city centre. Photo: NCJ Media.
The Go North East Q3 bus in Newcastle city centre. Photo: NCJ Media.

However, the DfT figures show that bus mileage in the region was also falling under the last Labour government – dropping from 105 million in 2005 to 94.4 million in 2010, with the gradual dive continuing to the latest figure of 65.9 million in 2023.

That means the North East has experienced a loss of 39 million bus miles over 18 years, a 37% cut to the overall network across Tyne and Wear, Durham, Northumberland, and the Tees Valley.

Alistair Ford, of North East Public Transport Users Group, said the big decline was evidence of a “failure of transport policy over the last four decades in the UK and the huge impact it has had on lives across our region”.

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He added: “By allowing bus services to be run for profit by private corporations, successive governments have overseen a massive decline in bus services, making people’s journeys more difficult, seeing communities isolated, and forcing families into expensive car ownership.

"In order to tackle social exclusion and greenhouse gas emissions from transport we need as many people as possible to be able to use a reliable, safe, accessible, and affordable bus system that connects to other public transport like our Metro and rail system.

“Losing almost 40% of our bus services over the last 20 years makes this ambition much more difficult. It is time to get buses back under public control and run services for people and planet, not for private profit.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “The Government has invested over £3.5 billion since 2020 to protect, support and improve local bus services.

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“With redirected funding from HS2, we have already extended the £2 single bus fare cap until the end of 2024 and allocated the first £150 million tranche of £1 billion in new funding dedicated to improving bus services across the North and the Midlands as part of our Network North plan.”