MP Ian Liddell-Grainger has welcomed an additional £80 million of Government funding to support local bus services.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said the investment recognised the importance of having a well-maintained public road transport network at a time when cost of living increases were forcing many motorists to give up their cars.

But he also warned that local authorities cannot continue running ‘ghost’ services if people failed to use the buses.

The Government funding is being distributed to 64 local authorities, with Somerset Council receiving a further £737,000 to take its total bus improvement grant to more than £13.3 million.

It follows the £3.5 billion invested by the Government in bus services since 2020 and comes on top of a further £140 million announced in May from the extension of the Bus Service Operators Grant, taking the total to continue supporting and protecting bus services across England to £300 million into 2025.

The Government has also invested £200 million to extend the bus fare cap, with single bus tickets capped at £2 outside London until the end of October, and then at £2.50 until November 30, 2024.

Mr Liddell-Grainger currently represents West Somerset and will be the Conservative General Election candidate for the new Tiverton and Minehead constituency covering much of the area around Wellington.

He said the fare cap had been particularly welcomed in rural areas where average fares had dropped by 10.8 per cent as a result.

However, he warned, even with extra funding, bus service provision would have to be carefully targeted.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said: “Whenever we talk about extending services there is inevitably a clamour for more buses to be run in the evenings to allow people to travel to social events and for entertainment.

“But in all too many cases when those services have been laid on the actual demand has fallen short of the predicted usage so that we have had the spectacle of ghost buses running around almost empty.

“Money to support bus services has to be spent where it will benefit the greatest number of users, and local authorities are in a real dilemma - they cannot force people to take the bus, yet they are criticised if they trot out the old ‘use it or lose it’ argument.

“But I am delighted that the Government has adopted such an enlightened view when it comes to subsidising public transport in rural areas.

“It appears that Ministers have finally grasped the fact that in thousands of rural communities it is the only way for families to remain moderately mobile.”

  • Somerset Council recently agreed to subsidise the No 25 Taunton to Wiveliscombe and Dulverton bus and the No 28 Taunton to Minehead route to keep the services going at least until the end of next March.