Government extends £2 bus fare cap and protects vital services
- £2 bus fare extended until 31 October to help passengers with cost of living and then £2.50 until November 2024
- new £300 million government investment will protect bus services into 2025 and keep travel affordable
- funding boost will support the bus sector’s long-term recovery, taking total investment for buses to more than £3.5 billion since March 2020
Millions of passengers across England will continue to ‘Get Around for £2’ and access vital bus services thanks to £500 million in government funding, supporting people with the cost of living and ensuring long-term stability in the sector.
The Transport Secretary Mark Harper today (17 May 2023) confirmed £300 million to protect vital routes and improve services until 2025 that people rely on for work, education, medical appointments and shopping.
To help people with cost of living pressures and save on everyday travel costs, the government will also provide up to £200 million to continue capping single bus fares at £2 outside London until the end of October 2023 and then at £2.50 until 30 November 2024 – when the government will review their effectiveness and future bus fares.
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates that inflation will be halved by the end of this year, and capping fares at £2.50 until November 2024 will create longer-term certainty for bus users over the next year. The fare cap will be reviewed ahead of November 2024.
The move is an essential part of the government’s Help for Households initiative to support everyone through the increased cost of living, and will particularly benefit those on lower incomes who take nearly 3 times as many bus trips than those on higher incomes.
During the pandemic, bus usage dropped as low as 10% of pre-pandemic levels and, while passenger levels have recovered to around 85 to 90%, the fare cap aims to encourage people back on the bus, which can help reduce congestion and emissions.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
By extending the £2 fare cap, we’re making sure bus travel remains accessible and affordable for everyone while helping to ease cost of living pressures.
Buses connect our communities and play a vital role in growing the economy; they transport people to work, take our kids to school and make sure patients can get to doctors’ appointments.
That’s why we’re determined to protect local routes and encourage more people onto the bus, ensuring people can get around easily and in an affordable way.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said:
Taking the bus is the most popular form of public transport and millions of people rely on these vital services every day.
That’s why we’re investing half a billion pounds to help people save money amid cost of living pressures and continue to level up transport in all parts of the country, doing our bit to help halve inflation and grow the economy.
Graham Vidler, CEO of the Confederation of Passenger Transport, said:
We welcome this 2-year funding settlement. It shows a recognition of the value of buses to the economy and to local communities. It will enable bus operators and local authorities to plan, promote and grow services with greater confidence.
However, the combination of the funding settlement and the £2 fare cap extension will not save every service in every part of the country. Operators and local authorities will now work together to study the detail of the government’s proposals and ensure that the funding is used to safeguard the best possible network for local passengers.
Some of the biggest savings on the longest routes up and down the country thanks to the fare cap include:
|Journey||Normal fare||Amount saved||% saving|
|Lancaster to Kendal||£14.50||£12.50||86%|
|Plymouth to Exeter||£11.20||£9.20||82%|
|Newcastle to Middlesbrough||£8.00||£6.00||75%|
|Hull to York||£8.50||£6.50||76%|
|Leeds to Scarborough||£15.00||£13.00||87%|
While initially introduced only as a temporary measure, we are extending the £2 fare cap for the second time to continue helping people save money on travel. Since it started on 1 January this year, the £2 fare has encouraged more people to use the bus.
Operators such as Go-Ahead have carried more than 16 million passengers at £2 since 1 January 2023, helping them save on average a third off fares. Bus operators that are continuing the £2 fare cap scheme will be confirmed in due course.
The additional funding announced today will be shared between local transport authorities and bus operators to protect and improve routes across England and demonstrates our commitment to returning bus sector to a long-term sustainable financial footing. The new funding models will protect vulnerable routes while allowing local authorities and operators to determine the routes that work for local areas.
This builds on over 3 years’ worth of government support totalling over £2 billion to help the sector recover from the pandemic, and more than £1 billion to support local authorities deliver their long-term local plans to improve services.
As part of the £300 million to support services until 2025, £160 million will be provided to local transport authorities to improve fares, services and infrastructure while £140 million will go directly to operators to help protect essential services across England.
While it is the responsibility of bus operators and local transport authorities to ensure an adequate provision of bus routes, the government continues to work closely with the sector to support local areas in dealing with changing travel patterns while managing pressures on the taxpayer.
This latest funding is part of a multi-billion holistic programme of government support for the bus sector. In 2021, the government published the National Bus Strategy and asked all English local transport authorities outside London to set out their bus service improvement plans (BSIPs) explaining their local visions for the step-change in bus services that are needed to put passengers back at the heart of the network.
Since then, over £1 billion has been awarded to 34 counties, city regions and unitary authorities to deliver service improvements, bus priority measures and ambitious fares initiatives, including local fare caps in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Liverpool City Region.
In addition, £5.7 billion investment has been provided to 8 mayoral combined authorities in England to support integrated, cross-modal transport networks over the next 5 years through the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS), including supporting bus infrastructure.
As part of the National Bus Strategy, the government committed to achieving a zero-emission bus (ZEB) fleet. Since February 2020, we have supported an estimated 3,400 ZEBs across the UK, including a near £300 million investment for up to 1,400 ZEBs in England outside London, taking the vision of a net zero transport network closer to reality.