'All regions deserve new bus funding,' operators say


The Department for Transport (DfT) has struggled to provide details of nearly £1bn of bus funding for the North and Midlands, announced as part of the decision to scrap HS2 north of Birmingham.

The Network North announcement from prime minster Rishi Sunak included ‘a £700 million bus funding package in the North', which it said will also see more buses and more frequent routes, ‘including a new service to Royal Blackburn Hospital, doubling the service between Northwich and Chester and more buses to industrial estates and business parks’.

It also included £230m for more frequent bus services in the Midlands, adding that in the West Midlands, this ‘could be spent on new bus stops around Telford and park and ride upgrades elsewhere in Shropshire and new bus lanes in Herefordshire’.

On Sunday, transport secretary Mark Harper told the BBC  that schemes that the Government had last week said ‘will happen’ as part of its Network North announcement were just ‘examples’ of things that might be done with the money saved.

A DfT spokesperson suggested that the cash could be a further round of Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) funding, which was previously a national funding stream under former prime minister Boris Johnson’s ‘Bus Back Better’ National Bus Strategy.

The strategy originally pledged £3bn to improve services but around £2bn of this was spent subsidising bus companies during the pandemic, leaving just over £1bn for BSIPs.

Transport Network understands that bus operators are still seeking details of the funding pledge.

At the time of the announcement, Graham Vidler, CEO of trade body the Confederation of Passenger Transport, suggested that new any funding should be available across the country.

He said: ‘We welcome the long overdue funding package for bus services in the north and Midlands of England. The investment shows a recognition of the value of buses to the economy and, building on operators’ own innovation and investment, has the potential to grow the network substantially.

‘Operators will now study the detail of the Government’s proposals and work with local authority partners to make it a success, and ensure it delivers the improvements that passengers want.’

He added: ‘This is not job done. The National Bus Strategy highlighted the potential to improve bus networks across the whole country.

‘Passengers in the north, south, east and west of the country deserve further Government investment to unlock the full economic, net zero and social wellbeing potential of buses.’

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