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According to the DfT’s latest bus use statistics, there continues to be a strong correlation between levels of car ownership and the number of bus journeys made by people in England. “Data from the National Travel Survey shows that people in households with no car access make around four times as many journeys by bus compared to people with at least one household car,” the analysis says.

The latest statistics also indicate that London continues to be essentially a separate country from the rest of England when it comes to bus use, with the capital boasting passenger numbers that are actually slightly higher than the rest of the country put together (2.315 billion bus trips in 2012/13 in London, compared with 2.284 billion trips elsewhere in England) and very different patterns of usage. “In 2012/13 the number of bus passenger journeys in London was double the level of the mid-1980s,” the DfT notes, observing also that, since the mid-1990s, when there was a burst of increased public funding for buses in the capital, “the proportion of households with no car increased in London”.

Almost exactly the opposite happened in England outside London, however. Here bus patronage numbers were a third less in 2012/13 than they were in the mid-1980s, the statistics say, during which period the proportion of households nationally without access to a car fell from 38% to 25%.

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So buses are the green way to travel are they? Well it clearly depends on how you measure their environmental credentials. The latest figures from the DfT show that fleet average CO2 emissions for buses have risen by about 25% over the past decade (the figures are plotted below alongside similar data for rigid and articulated HGVs). The numbers tell you what is happening but not why. Perhaps buses are getting bigger and heavier because they can carry more people.

Of course what is more important here is the average load factor per bus and the subsequent CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre – rather than vehicle kilometre. Even so it would be interesting to hear what the ‘official’ reason is for the steady increase in bus emissions compared with the steady decline in those for cars.

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