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Transport issues are causing social exclusion

Transport issues are causing more than 2 in 5 of the most vulnerable residents of the North to be socially excluded

  • Bus services in the North have been cut by more than 30% since 2010 – more than in the rest of England.
  • The impacts of bus service cuts have fallen disproportionately on lower income residents, disabled residents, and carers.

Research published today by Transport for the North (TfN) – Transport and social exclusion in the North in 2023/24 report – reveals that more than two in five disabled residents, carers, and low-income residents (44%) in a range of areas of the North of England are facing social exclusion because of inadequate and poorly performing transport systems.

Underlying this, TfN’s analysis of Department for Transport statistics shows that bus service mileage in the North has been cut by almost a third (32.3%) since 2010. These cuts have severely impacted the health, incomes, and everyday lives of residents across the region, and are key cause of social exclusion.

Our new survey of 1,407 disabled residents, low-income residents, and informal carers in Leeds, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, York, and North Yorkshire demonstrates the depth of impact that bus service cuts and other transport issues have on everyday life:

  • 44% faced at least one form of social exclusion specifically because of transport issues, and 21% faced multiple forms of social exclusion.
  • 26% said that the money they spend on transport makes it difficult to afford other essential items, like utility bills and food shopping.
  • 23% said their everyday journeys caused them significant stress and anxiety. This was particularly common among disabled residents.
  • 31% of those with a disability that has a major impact on their everyday life had not travelled for leisure purposes at all in the last month, compared with 4% of non-disabled respondents.


Our survey also demonstrated how the lack of viable local public transport options for everyday journeys increases the strain on household finances and reduces independence. This includes many having no alternative to car and taxi travel but suffering major financial hardship from having to run and maintain a car or take regular taxi journeys. Survey respondents told us that:

  • “The money I pay on public transport is ridiculous and impacts on my shopping bill, because that’s the only outgoing I have control over.”
  • “I’m losing my sight and rely on taxis for everything. Leaves me little money. I have to limit what I spend on household items. I don’t go out.”
  • “I’m late for work almost every day, without it being my fault. I even set off earlier – at 6am – and I’m still late for work at 9am. It impacts my mental health.”
  • “Costs about £100 a month to run my car. I cut back gas, and food. I cut back electric, and don’t go out.”

Martin Tugwell, Transport for the North Chief Executive, said:

“Local public transport is the foundation to grow economies, provide more sustainable travel choices, and deliver a good quality of life for all. This new research demonstrates the price residents pay when they don’t have access to decent quality public transport options – financial hardship, poor health, or social isolation.

“We need to change how we plan, develop, invest, and deliver transport improvements to benefit people and places. Buses are a lifeline, playing a vital role in everyday life across the country, enabling people to access services and opportunities. And we know that a better, more reliable public transport offer – including buses – can encourage more sustainable travel choices. More sustainable travel is essential to achieving the North’s ambition for near-zero surface transport emissions by 2045.

 Dr Tom Jarvis, Principal Social Researcher at Transport for the North, said:

“A decade of decline in local bus services across the North, combined with rapid increases in the cost of living, are forcing residents to make impossible choices between their work, health, caring responsibilities, and everyday essentials.

“Our research shows that those on low incomes, and informal carers are particularly likely to face severe financial hardship, poor mental health, and isolation because of the lack of suitable transport options in their neighbourhoods.

“For these residents, transport issues often compound the many forms of social disadvantage already faced in everyday life, creating a vicious cycle of social exclusion. The loss of local public transport means that basic transport needs can only be fulfilled by sacrificing other essentials to pay for taxis fares, or by depending on friends and family for lifts – at the cost of their independence.”


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