Bus and tram passenger journeys

The light rail (includes trams) and bus passenger journey figures have been obtained from the Department for Transport. Table 1 includes the bus passenger journey results for the Lancashire-12  area, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, the North West region and England. It also has the results for the Blackpool Tramway. 

Figures are in millions of journeys originating in the given area in the year in question. The results in table 1 include all bus operators serving the general public, but exclude school buses and 'dial-a-ride' services. The bus passenger journey figures are sourced from bus operators via the Department for Transport's Public Service Vehicle Survey. These figures may differ to those provided by local authorities.

Deregulation of the bus market took place in October 1986 as a result of the Transport Act 1985. This led to the opening up of the market to the private sector and should be borne in mind when analysing bus passenger journey figures from 1986 onwards.

Table 1. Local bus and light rail (tram) passenger journeys, 2009/10 to 2016/17 (millions of journeys) 

  2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17
Lancashire-12 area 61.3 59.7 57.0 53.2 51.6 50.1 47.6 45.5
Blackburn with Darwen 4.9 4.9 4.8 4.1 4.2 4.0 4.0 3.8
Blackpool 12.8 11.8 11.7 11.2 11.1 11.1 10.8 10.0
North West 463.9 457.0 439.5 434.5 434.1 426.9 413.1 408.5
London 2,238.2 2,269.2 2,323.9 2,314.6 2,384.1 2,363.6 2,292.6 2,240.3
England 4,613.6 4,618.6 4,640.1 4,570.2 4,672.7 4,627.7 4,507.8 4,438.2
Blackpool Tramway 2.2 1.6 1.1 3.7 4.3 4.1 4.9 5.1

Notes: Figures exclude school bus journeys and dial-a-ride services. Figures provided by bus operators via the Department for Transport's Public Service Vehicle Survey.

Source Department for Transport DfT local bus services table BUS0109b and Light rail and tram statistics 

Bus passenger journeys   

Over the 32 year period from 1985/86 to 2016/17, the number of bus passenger journeys has fallen by -7.6% in England (-363m journeys). This overall figure however disguises some wide variations and disparities at the regional level. London for example has seen an increase of 94.5% (+1,088m bus passenger journeys), almost doubling since 1985/86. By contrast, numbers have more than halved in the north, where falls of -58.8% (North East region), -56.6% (Yorkshire and the Humber region) and -51.8% (North West region) were recorded. The total decrease in bus journeys in these 3 regions was -1.1 billion, of which -439 million (-51.8%) were in the North West. The Midlands regions also saw decreases of -31.3% (East) and -43.3% (West).

In addition to London, bus use also increased by 2% (+7m journeys) in the South East region between 1985/86 and 2016/17. Bus journeys in the South East totalled 356m journeys in 2016/17, its best year over the period, but numbers had previously fallen by 27%, to a low of 254m journeys in 1993/94. In the South West region, bus use rose by 8.6% (17.5m journeys) over the 32 year period but the 220 million journeys in 2016/17 were a million below the highest figure for the period of 221m journeys in 1987/88.

The combined increase in bus passenger journeys between 1985/86 to 2016/17 for London, the South East and the South West totalled +1,113m journeys (+65.3%). 

Excluding the increases in London, the South East and the South West of England, the number of bus passenger journeys fell by -47.6% (-1,476m journeys) in the remaining six regions in England between 1985/86 to 2016/17.  

In 2016/17, London accounted for 50.5% of bus passenger journeys in England and the North West accounted for 9.2%.

The data in table 1 (and figure 1) reveal a pattern of continuing decline in bus passenger journeys within the Lancashire-14 area over the past seven years since 2009/10. For the Lancashire-12 area, there were 45.5 million bus passenger journeys in 2016/17, which was noticeably lower than the 61.3 million in 2009/10, a reduction of -25.8%, or -15.8m journeys.

The unitary authorities of Blackburn with Darwen (-22.5%) and Blackpool (-21.9%) also show a general trend of declining bus use over the last seven years, with journeys decreasing by -1.1m in Blackburn with Darwen and dropping by -2.8m journeys in Blackpool since 2009/10.

In terms of changes between the previous year and the latest year only, there were around 200 thousand fewer bus journeys in Blackburn with Darwen and 800 thousand fewer in Blackpool. In percentage terms these were falls of -5% and -7.4% respectively. For the Lancashire-12 area, the number of bus passenger journeys decreased by -2.1m journeys (-4.4%), from 47.6.1m in 2015/16 to 45.5m in 2016/17.

Figure 1: Bus passenger journeys (millions), 2009/10 to 2016/17

Notes: Figures exclude school bus journeys and dial-a-ride services. Figures provided by bus operators via the Department for Transport's Public Service Vehicle Survey.

Source: Department for Transport DfT local bus services table BUS0109a

For England as a whole, bus journey numbers in the year to March 2017 decreased by -1.5%, to 4,438.2 million (m). The figures also show a decline in bus use in London (down to 2,240.3m, -2.3%) over the year and across the rest of England (down to 2,197.9m, -0.8%). Within the North West region, bus passenger journeys have dropped to 408.5m (-4.7 million journeys, -1.1%) between 2015/16 and 2016/17. At the regional level, the East of England, the South East and the South West all recorded an increase within England over the previous year totalling 12.1 million journeys, a total rise of 1.6%.

Blackpool tramway   

Figure 2. Blackpool tramway passenger journeys, 1983/84 - 2016/17  


Source: Department for Transport, Light rail and tram statistics 

The Blackpool tram system is an 18 kilometre route from Starr Gate in Blackpool to Fleetwood, and therefore operates in both Blackpool unitary authority and Wyre district. For the 2016/17 financial year, there were 26 tram cars on the system and 39 stops along the route. The average journey lasted 4.4 km, total revenue was £7.1 million, and passenger kilometres amounted to 22.3 million.

Light rail and tram statistics on the Department for Transport website (table LRT0101) go back to 1983/84 when 6.2 million journeys were made on Blackpool trams (see figure 2). There followed a long-term period of decline to a low point of just 1.1 million journeys in 2011/12, but the figures for recent years were impacted by closures for system upgrades.

The Blackpool tram system reopened in full on 4th April 2012 after a long period of closure for a multi-million pound upgrade that included a new depot and 16 new trams. The 2012/13 results offered the first indication of passenger numbers on the upgraded route, and the figure of 3.7 million represented a very noticeable improvement over previous years. The 2013/14 figure of 4.3 million represented a further substantial improvement. 

The 2014/15 financial year saw a decline to 4.1 million passenger journeys which reflected changes to concessionary pass entitlements. From 1 April 2014, only Blackpool residents were able to use their concessionary passes on the tram system. All other English national concessionary passes were only valid on Blackpool Transport buses. Between 2013/14 and 2014/15, tram receipts from concessionary revenue fell from £1.5 million to £300,000. The figure remained at £300,000 for 2015/16, but more than doubled to £700,000 in 2016/17. Passenger journeys continued to recover in the 2016/17 financial year, totalling 5.1 million.

The northern section of the tram system to Fleetwood passes through Wyre district, and in February 2016, it was announced that residents in Wyre district with concessionary travel passes could once again use them to catch a tram. In 2016/17 there were 600,000 passenger journeys made by users of concessionary passes, hence around an eighth of journeys and a tenth of revenue were accounted for by such pass holders.  

Related article 

A complementary article considers the 2011 census results for the method of travel to work. The census was undertaken on 27th March 2011, when the tram system was closed for a major upgrade, so the figures exclude the normal commuting patterns of people who use the tram to get to work. The census results highlight the dominance of private vehicles for commuting to work and the minor role played by the various forms of public transport in Lancashire.

Page updated February 2018