It is at the passing of a person and the end of an era that it is worth looking back at how things changed during a particular passage of time. When Margaret Thatcher entered Downing Street in 1979 12% of passenger miles were being covered by bus or coach. As she departed eleven years later that number had collapsed to 7%. It has not recovered since (6% in 2011).
By contrast, travel by car, van and taxi rose over the same period: up from 77% in 1979 to 85% in 1990 (83% in 2011). Rail fell slightly from 7% to 6% (9% in 2011).
The numbers are merely a snapshot but the trend in bus use across the whole of the post-war period has been one of almost continual decline, with passenger miles falling steadily from a high of 52% in 1952 (as far as the numbers I’m looking at go back).
Cycling also fell steadily: from 11% in 1952, to 1% in 2011. Rail use halved: from 18% in 1952 to 9% in 2011 (though it had been as low as 5% in 1992).
These are only the numbers and the analysis would take rather longer though some of the key factors are obvious: increasing wealth, changing demographics, shifts in land use, availability of goods and services, costs of transport, Beeching, rail privatisation, oil prices, economic boom and bust.
PS. This article from the Guardian tells how MPs in Westminster discuss political succession in the terms of “what would happen if so and so fell under a Number 11 bus…” the consensus being that if Mrs Thatcher had ever collided with one it would have been the vehicle and not the person that came out of it worse.