Ministers promise a national bus strategy


A new Government bus strategy backed with an initial £220m will see local authorities pilot schemes to boost electric take-up and low fares, as well as more London-style franchising powers.

The new investment and policy package announced to coincide with the Conservative Party Conference was pretty light on detail outside a few pilot schemes, although ministers promised that a 'long-term funding package will be announced as part of the 2020 spending review'.

A bus in Birmingham in the West Midlands

This would include plans to 'support local authorities, which want to pursue London-style bus systems in their areas'.

The initial £220m funding includes £20m for new bus express lanes in the West Midlands to help make their buses more reliable.

A further £30m has been allocated 'directly to local authorities in 2020 to 2021, to help them improve current bus services or restore those that have been lost'.

Cornwall Council said it would receive £23.5m over four years to reduce fares across the county in the hope of boosting passenger numbers.

A spokeswoman for the unitary authority said the details were still being worked out but the scheme would be launched in May next year and could include a zonal charging system.

The Government also pledged to help deliver apps to draw together information on bus routes, fares, and timetables from different bus operators across England into one place.

In a statement, the Department for Transport (DfT) said that the plans also included helping one town make the switch to electric, though the location was not decided yet.

The DfT said in a statement: 'Britain’s first all-electric bus town will see an entire place’s city buses changed over to wireless electric vehicles. Country buses will be hybrids, using electric power within the built-up area and diesel outside. Pollution and operating costs will be dramatically reduced. The location is still being discussed with local authorities and operators and will be announced later.'

Stephen Edwards, chair of the Urban Transport Group and executive director of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, said: 'We also welcome the recognition that bus funding badly needs an overhaul - in particular it needs to be simpler, devolved and greatly enhanced if we are going to turn decline into growth.

'A national bus strategy could also be helpful - especially if it focuses on providing the right framework on national issues like funding reform, safety and the greening of the bus fleet whilst ensuring that the way that buses are delivered remains devolved and locally determined.'

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