How Much Do You Pay for Bus Services?

Every year, Transport for West Midlands do what is known as tender rounds, where certain bus services which are socially necessary are put up for tender, where operators bid for the rights to run them under subsidy.

Now, under information that I managed to gather under the Freedom of Information Act, a handy piece of legislation that allows the public to put public bodies (such as local authorities and people like TfWM) to account for things like how much they spend on a bus service, all the way through to how many toilet rolls they purchase.

One thing they do release is how much they are paying per year to a bus operator to run each tendered bus service. Now, thanks to information I have gathered, I can reveal which bus service that was placed for tender 2017 is costing the most to run, per passenger.

The way I did this was asking TfWM for the “tender specification”, a document to which is sent to bus operators for them to prepare their “bid”, which is how much it will cost them to run the service to how the Combined Authority is wanting it.

Then I calculated the amount of subsidy given divided by the number of passengers per week, multiplied by 52. This led to some interesting results. The calculations provided led to find that the taxpayer was subsidising contracts given out in 2017 to the tune of £2,353,959.14, or an average of £1.56 per passenger, per trip.

£1.56 of taxpayers money is the average subsidy per bus service
£1.56 of taxpayers money is the average subsidy per bus service (Photo by Magnus D)

Now, some bus services were hovering around the average price, however one route, service 36 and 41 in Walsall, was operating at an average of 3 people per trip, with a subsidy of £3.18. This may seem a lot, but it works out that the taxpayer, in its Council Tax, is paying an average of 6 pence to run this bus service.

The cheapest, on the other hand, is service 44 in West Bromwich, which only has 27 journeys subsidised, averaging £0.24 per passenger, per trip. This comes at a total £4,992 for the service, or less than a penny per property paying Council Tax.

That means that the estimated population of the Midlands (‎‎2,864,900) are subsiding the bus services for less than a tenth of the total passenger count (206,284 passengers)

On the other hand, however, it is also not just the lightly used routes such as the 36 and 41 in Walsall that are being subsidies for operations, but also some the highly used routes that Transport for West Midlands deem socially necessary.

Service 5 in Birmingham, operated by National Express West Midlands, despite getting an average of 27 passengers per journey on a Sunday, the taxpayer is paying 84 pence per passenger, per trip. This works out a total each year of £57,044, or 8 pence per taxpayer on the Council Tax bill.

So, before you board your bus, just think how much it would cost to run that service, and how more people could take advantage of it to lesser the burden on the taxpayer!

All data was taken from Transport for West Midlands under the Freedom of Information Act and from their website. the full data that I have used is available on request.