£2 bus fare cap extended until October as services given funding boost to protect vital routes

The government has said a £300 million investment will protect vital routes and improve services until 2025

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Millions of passengers across England will continue to ‘get around for £2’ as the government extends its bus fare cap for a second time.

A £200 million investment means the £2 cap will remain for bus services outside London until 31 October in a move to ensure services remain “accessible and affordable for everyone”. After this date, the cap will increase to £2.50 until 30 November 2024 before fares are reviewed, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimates that inflation will be halved by the end of this year, so capping fares at £2.50 until November 2024 “will create longer-term certainty for bus users” over the next year.

The government has extended the £2 bus fare cap for a second time (Photo: Adobe)The government has extended the £2 bus fare cap for a second time (Photo: Adobe)
The government has extended the £2 bus fare cap for a second time (Photo: Adobe)

Some of the biggest savings on the longest routes up and down the country thanks to the cap include:

  • Lancaster to Kendal - normal fare, £14.50, amount saved, £12.50 - an 86% saving
  • Plymouth to Exeter - normal fare, £11.20, amount saved, £9.20 - an 82% saving
  • Newcastle to Middlesbrough - normal fare, £8.00 amount saved, £6.00 - a 75% saving
  • Hull to York - normal fare, £8.50, amount saved, £6.50 - a 76% saving
  • Leeds to Scarborough - normal fare, £15.00, amount saved, £13.00 - an 87% saving

Transport Secretary Mark Harper on Wednesday (17 May) also confirmed £300 million to support bus services until 2025, which will help protect vital routes that people rely on for work, education, medical appointments and shopping.

A total of £160 million will be given to local transport authorities to improve fares, services and infrastructure, while £140 million will go to operators to protect essential services across England, the DfT added.

The extension comes as part of the government’s Help for Households initiative to support the public with rising living costs, with the latest funding taking the total government investment for buses to more than £3.5 billion since March 2020, according to the DfT.

People on lower incomes “who take nearly three times as many bus trips” than those on higher incomes, will benefit in particular from the cap, the DfT said. But it is hoped by keeping fares at £2 it will encourage more people to use buses to get around, which the government says can help to reduce congestion and emissions.

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.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hailed the “vital role” buses play and the importance of keeping them as affordable modes of transport. He 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 on to the bus, ensuring people can get around easily and in an affordable way.”

Elsewhere, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) praised the extension of the cap, saying the £2 fare is “a vital innovation” which was brought to England by its metro mayors. Marcus Johns, research fellow at IPPR North Marcus Johns said: “It began with the mayors in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, then UK government learnt from them and rolled it out across the country. This is why devolution matters – it enabled mayors to innovate to serve their communities and their successes have become national successes.

“Bus services are a lifeline for people across the country and this cap ensures they are affordable during the cost-of-living crisis, but government and leaders across England mustn’t stop there.

“To rebuild our bus services and provide a truly attractive, accessible, and affordable public transport network, all parts of England must have the powers extended to take back public control of their buses through reregulation.”

The DfT said the cap has encouraged more people to use the bus, with passenger levels recovering to around 85 to 90% post-pandemic. It is understood that operators such as Go-Ahead have carried more than 16 million passengers at £2 since the scheme began on 1 January. Bus operators continuing the fare cap have yet to be confirmed.