Bus fares in the West Midlands could rise by as much as 24 per cent and services cut over the next few years, a report has warned.
The report, compiled for the six passenger transport authorities across English urban areas, suggests urban bus services outside London could be in for a tough time amid cuts to local Government funding and wider support for bus services.
The report is based on a computer model of the impact of public spending reductions on bus services.
It claims that between 2009 and 2014, bus patronage will fall by 20 per cent, fares will increase by 24 per cent above the rate of inflation and the number of kilometres covered by bus services will drop by 19 per cent.
The resultant congestion in urban areas across the UK will have an economic cost of £68 million, it has also calculated.
The report concluded that: “These results show that the trend towards rising fares and falling demand, observed over the past decades in metropolitan areas, are likely to continue into the foreseeable future.
“If anything, this trend is likely to be compounded by the current economic climate and confirmed cuts in central and local government services.”
Chairman of the group of six Integrated Transport Authorities, Coun Mark Dowd, said the report highlighted the need for policy change to stave of a “further vertiginous decline” in bus services in urban areas.
According to the Government, the number of bus passengers was already 2.9 per cent lower in 2010-11 than it was during the previous 12 months.
Coun Down said: “Business as usual bus policy from Government will mean bus service decline as usual – with the most vulnerable in our society the ones who will lose out.
“What this report shows is that without policy change from Government we will be continually trying to run up a downward escalator of funding cuts.”
He added: “The scenario testing in this report gives an objective assessment of the likely impact of public spending reductions on bus services for the millions of passengers who rely on the bus in the largest urban areas outside London.
“It gives a clear warning that without policy change we face further vertiginous decline in bus services which will have significant impact on traffic congestion, social division, carbon emissions and on the ability of our cities to play their full part in rebalancing the national economy.”