During the middle of the 20th century, public buses became the main transportation method in the UK. However, since this time, the figures have been declining and nowadays, bus passenger figures are half of what they were in the year 1960.
The place where buses are most frequently used nowadays is London and London bus journeys account for almost half of all bus journeys in the country. Despite this, figures have been declining recently. In terms of cost, it is the under 30 age group that are spending the most on bus fares with the average weekly spend of £2.30 (in 2017).
The majority of UK buses belong to one of the ‘Big 5’ companies. These are Arriva, Stagecoach Group, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead Group and National Express.
The leading bus and coach manufacturer in 2017 was Ford. This figure is determined by the number of new bus registrations. In London, the average age of a bus is two years and older buses tend to be in operation in areas that are more rural and can be up to 8 years old. These days, only 3% of buses are not classed as accessible for disabilities and 90% of buses now also operate CCTV on board.
Statistics on distances travelled by bus passengers
Between the years 2006 and 2018, statistics show the number of kilometres travelled by bus passengers in the United Kingdom had quite a number of variations. For example, in the year 2018, bus passengers travelled 35.3 billion passenger kilometres. While this seems like a high figure, 2010 saw this number reach a high of 44.7 billion kilometres travelled by bus passengers. The lowest in this time period was the year 2016 when there were 34.3 billion kilometres travelled on the buses.
Statistics on bus passenger numbers by region
In the four years of 2015 to 2018, England understandably had the largest number of bus passenger journeys in the UK in all years and the majority of these were in London. The number of journeys has steadily declined over this period. In 2015/2016, Great Britain had 5016 million journeys taken by bus but by 2017/2018, this had dropped to 4,852 million. Wales is the region with the fewest journeys made by bus; it had 100 million passenger journeys in 2015/2016 and this dropped by 4 million to 96 million passenger journeys two years later.
Longer-term statistics on distances travelled by bus or by coach
It is interesting to look at how Britons have changed their transport methods over the fifty or so years. There was a decrease in the number of kilometres travelled by passengers during this time as cars began to take hold as the main method of transport by Britons. This figure continues to decline. In 2012, for example, there were 42 billion passenger-kilometres travelled in Great Britain. This made up only 5% of the distance travelled by all transport methods during that year. Just 5 years later in 2017, this figure had decreased further to 38 billion passenger-kilometres.
Local buses over a decade
A survey looked at bus frequency use in 2007 and 2017. The respondents in 2017 who said they used buses daily or weekly saw a decline. However, more people said they used buses once a month or less.
Bus fares and household expenditure
In 2019, the statistics show that households including a person under 30 years old spent around £2.10 on bus or coach fares per week. For the over 75s, the average fare was 30p per week. This does not mean, however, that over 75s are using buses and coaches less. The fact that over 75s will have free bus travel definitely impacts these figures. The average fare is probably made up of those who have forgotten their bus pass or who have taken a coach trip which is not included in the free fares.
Bus fares and household income
It is interesting to compare gross income with bus use and fares. In 2019, those people in the ninth decline group (top 90% of earners) spent £2.50 per week on bus fares and coach fares on average. This is £1.50 more than the lowest 10% of earners who had an average of £1 spent on bus fares. There could be many reasons for these figures. It could be that the lower earners are unemployed or work part-time and thus need to use buses less frequently or it could be that they choose to walk to save money, for example.
Although bus use has declined over the years and continues to decline, it is clear that bus companies still have a highly lucrative business. Howevere, most people believe that bus use will continue to decline. This is not just because people are preferring to travel by car but also because people are looking at greener ways of travelling altogether. There has been an increase in people commuting to work by bicycle and this is the fastest-growing method of commuting in the country. That said, there will always be a place for buses and public transport and maybe one day in the future there may well be driver-less buses too!