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Single adult bus fare to be capped at £2

Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

The majority of single bus fares will be capped at £2 for adults in England for a three-month period next year in a bid to help with the cost-of-living crisis, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

Between January and March 2023, the government will provide £60m in funding to help subsidise bus operator costs in England so they can cap single adult fares at £2 per journey.

Currently, around 90% of bus operators in the market have signed up for the scheme, with the government hoping all in England will participate.

However, this fare cap will not apply to bus services in London as transport is devolved to the Mayor of London, including fare setting.

While bus fares vary across the country and by operator, some passengers can pay almost £6 for a single journey in rural areas.

By bringing in a cap on pricing, passengers in those areas could save more than £60 a month if they take four single trips a week.

Meanwhile, the average single fare for a three-mile journey is estimated at over £2.80, meaning that the new fare will save passengers almost 30% every time they travel.

Passengers who already pay less than £2 for a single bus fare will not be affected by the cap, the DfT confirmed.

‘Practical help to lower daily expenditure’

Transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “Buses are by far and away the most used form of public transport, so ensuring that almost all bus journeys are no more than £2 will assist passengers over the winter months and provide direct help to thousands of households across the country.

“This £60m boost will mean everyone can affordably get to work, education, the shops and doctor’s appointments.

“We know people will be feeling the pressure of rising costs this winter, and so we have been working hard this summer to provide practical concrete help that will lower daily expenditure.”

Paul Tuohy of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Bus fares have risen by 65% in a decade, so this cap – which we have been calling for – will be a great relief to the millions of people who rely on buses. It will also encourage more people to find their nearest bus stop and give the bus a try.

“Buses have great potential to cut traffic and carbon emissions, to connect communities and ease loneliness. But they have suffered heavy cuts in recent years, so we hope this very welcome fare cap will be followed by long-term funding reform to set buses on the road to a brighter future.”

Boost bus passenger numbers

The funding comes after more than £2bn was allocated to support bus services in England during the pandemic as passenger numbers declined significantly. According to the DfT, usage hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels and the cap initiative aims to encourage more people to use the network for local journeys while reducing carbon emissions.

As an example, a flat-rate bus pilot scheme (backed by £23.5m of government funding), launched in Cornwall this January and has seen a 10% increase in passenger numbers. The ‘Any Ticket Any Bus’ scheme, running over four years, includes a £3 day ticket within towns or a £9 day ticket across all of Cornwall, which is valid across different bus operators.

The government added it will continue to work closely with bus operators and local authorities to “consider future support to help passengers continue accessing reliable and affordable bus services after March”.