There are 60 fewer bus trips per hour in Bolton as services have been cut over the years.

A report found services have fallen by nearly a third in 13 years.

The report by Friends of the Earth found that there were nearly 60 fewer bus trips per hour in Bolton in 2023 compared to 2013.

This was matched by similarly loss of routes being served over the same time across Greater Manchester, which has just recently launched the publicly controlled Bee Network.

Bee Network committee member Cllr Sean Fielding said: “When the national press reports on bus service cuts its typically about the decline in rural areas.

“These figures show that urban areas like Bolton have been hit too.

“Residents of Breightmet, Blackshaw and Darcy Lever know this with the loss of the 536 Darcy Lever circular just a few years ago.

The Bolton News: The Bee Network launched in Bolton last autumnThe Bee Network launched in Bolton last autumn (Image: Newsquest)

“With Andy Burnham having taken buses back under public control through the Bee Network, I’m hopeful that we can reverse this decline, start reinstating lost routes and increase the frequency of others.”

The Friends of the Earth “how Britain’s bus services have drastically declined” report found that in 2010 bus service frequency stood at 214.8 trips per hour.

But by 2023 this had fallen to 151.8 per hour, representing a fall of 29.4 per cent.

The report was carried out by Friends of the Earth together with researchers from the University of Leeds, who analysed bus time tables from all over the country.

Bolton has been left behind by the expansion of Metrolink tram services in the rest of the region.

A recent report by Transport for Greater Manchester found that bringing trams to the borough would be “poor value for money”, leaving buses and trains as its only viable forms of public transport.

Transport leaders had argued that improved bus services could in fact have been a strong alternative to expanding the Metrolink into Bolton.

But the decline of bus services by nearly a third poses a significant challenge to any attempt to truly integrate Bolton’s public transport with the rest of the city region.

The North West on average had seen over this same 13 year period where frequency of buses had fallen by around 45 per cent.

Friends of the Earth found that across England and Wales bus services had fallen by around 48 per cent, rising to 52 per cent in rural areas.

The environmental charity argued that the loss of busses was likely to hit people from poorer backgrounds all the harder.

They have argued that the government must address this by supporting a “bus renaissance” across the country.

Friends of the Earth head of science, policy and research Mike Childs said: “There has been a silent war on bus users for over a decade.

“This is not only disproportionately impacting those living on low incomes, people of colour and disabled people who are less likely to own a car, but also people who have had to give up their car as they’ve got older or due to poor health

“A bus renaissance is essential both for the millions of people who do not own a car in the UK and as part of a fair, green transition to a zero-carbon economy. 

“To reduce pollution and cut emissions, we need the government to invest in our crumbling public transport system to make it far easier for people to use their car less and switch to greener ways to travel like buses, trains and cycling.”  

But transport leaders in Bolton and across the region have said that they hope the launch of the Bee Network bus system will help to turn trends like these around.

The public controlled bus network was launched across both Bolton and Wigan in September of last year.

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This was the first phase of what Transport for Greater Manchester calls its aim to reverse decades long decline in bus use all over the city region.

The first stage of work involved stabilising the bus network, improving timetables and eventually increasing the frequency of buses across Bolton and Wigan.

The Bee Network is also now running in parts of Salford and Bury ahead of its launch around the rest of Greater Manchester.

Transport for Greater Manchester director of bus Stephen Rhodes said: “The Bee Network is our vision for an accountable, affordable and locally controlled network, that puts the interests of our residents and businesses at its heart.

“By bringing services under local control we’ve been able to introduce a number of timetable improvements, with increased frequencies and services that run earlier and later, as well as new buses and new tickets that make travel cheaper for families or those making trips on bus and Metrolink.”