A BUS company is urging MPs to put buses "at the heart of their plans" to tackle congestion and improve air quality.

Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire has written to politicians and local councillors to warn them of the "worrying impact" of congested traffic.

The bus operator says the "growing problem" is affecting travellers every day, and bus speeds in Cumbria have dropped by two per cent in the past three years.

Congestion costs UK motorists more than £37.7 billion in 2017, said Stagecoach, citing nationwide research - an average of £1,168 per driver. Motorists spent an average of 31 hours stuck in traffic at peak hours.

The bus company's own research shows the number of buses needed at peak times has risen by three per cent since 2014. Stagecoach says the cost of maintaining "high levels of punctuality" as a result of congestion was £600,000.

Some routes have also been changed "reluctantly" to save time and avoid further buses being needed, including Kendal town services removed from Stricklandgate, which proved unpopular with many passengers.

Stagecoach said its research shows that each 10 per cent drop in speed led to an eight per cent hike in operating costs, and that "despite our attempts to protect our customers as much as possible, these increased costs invariably push prices up for passengers".

It added: " We also know that, where these costs are passed on to passengers through fares, every eight per cent increase in costs leads to a potential 5.6 per cent fall in passenger numbers. And every 10 per cent reduction in service frequency results in an estimated five per cent drop in patronage."

Stagecoach has offered to meet MPs and councillors to discuss local issues, traffic hotspots and solutions, such as changes to road infrastructure and layout, and traffic management.