The National Audit Office and Audit Commission carried out a joint investigation of how buses are run. They compared services in the capital, regulated by Transport for London, with those in the rest of England, which are mostly run commercially.
By 2004-05, bus use in London accounted for 44 per cent of all bus use in England, the report notes. This might be enough to achieve the target of more than 12 per cent growth nationally, the auditors believe. But outside the capital total bus journeys have declined by an average of seven per cent.
The study suggests that deregulated services outside London could work more effectively. Councils could save money through better administration of concessionary fares and closer working across authorities in tendering for services could achieve economies of scale, it advises.
David Sparks, chairman of the environment board at the Local Government Association, said: "Councils outside London are already doing everything within their power to try and encourage bus operators to run reliable services." He called for local authorities to be given greater influence over bus networks.
Delivery Chain Analysis for Bus Services in England can be viewed via www.PlanningResource.co.uk.