Stagecoach North East has called on councils across Britain to reinvest their hundreds of millions of pounds of profits from car parking in measures to back the country’s bus networks.
Stagecoach said the £925m annual surplus from car parking fees and enforcement shared by local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales could help bus passengers and tackle the growing congestion and air quality crisis in towns and cities across the UK.
National data published by the RAC Foundation shows that council profits from on-street and off-street parking car parking in England has risen by almost a third (32 percent) over the past four years and in 2017-18 stood at £867m.
In the north east, council profits in Tyne and Wear and Teesside have increased from over £9million in 2013-2014 to over £13million in 2017-2018, a rise of over 46 percent.
The increasing council profits from car parking is in stark contrast with the significant cuts to local authority spending on buses in recent years - despite the bus being Britain's most important and heaviest used mode of public transport.
Data published earlier this year by the Campaign for Better Transport shows that local authority bus budgets in England and Wales were cut by £20.5 million in 2017-18 - the eighth year in a row investment has been reduced.
Since 2010-11, 3,347 council funded bus services in England and Wales have been reduced, altered or withdrawn, with spending down 46 percent in England and 39 percent in Wales between 2010-11 and 2017-18.
Steve Walker, Managing Director of Stagecoach North East, said: "Towns and cities across the north east are facing a congestion and air quality crisis, which is damaging the health of our bus networks, the health of our economy and the health of individuals.
"These figures show that councils are making huge profits from car parking every year, but instead of that money being reinvested in measures to help bus passengers and encourage modal shift to sustainable bus travel, bus budgets are being slashed.
"With around 30 percent of high street spending coming from bus users, these investment cuts are not just bad news for public transport, but bad news for local businesses.
"If local authorities are serious about addressing air quality, backing the high street and supporting local communities, we believe car parking profits should be ring-fenced to protect and improve the regions’ buses. This is absolutely not about subsidies for bus companies, it is about targeted measures to help bus passengers.
"We could see a massive positive impact if that level of funding was used to promote sustainable bus travel, deliver better bus priority for passengers, and introduce traffic management measures to address congestion."
The car parking profits equate to more than four times the combined £204.5m budgeted spend by councils in England and Wales in 2018-19. Total budgeted spend for buses in England in 2018-19 is £189.7m and for Wales is £14.8m.
Buses account for around 60 percent of all public transport journeys, with around 5 billion journeys by bus in Britain every year.