A groundbreaking bus partnership between a score of major operators in the West Midlands and their public sector partners aims to pump £150m into the regional network by 2021.
The Bus Alliance has been devised by the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) and Centro, its delivery arm, and will see the ITA put in £25m of the total - £5m a year over the five years of the Alliance.
The deal operates thorough the use of Statutory Quality Partnership (SQP) powers under the Transport Act 2000 and builds on the SQP that has been in place in Birmingham city centre since 2010.
Under the Alliance, operators have committed to work to the standards laid down in the ITA’s bus policy, such as limiting fare rises, reducing exhaust emissions and improved on-board environment such as free Wi-Fi. Those who do not meet the standards will be barred from operating.
The ITA aims to make funding available to assist smaller operators in meeting the SQP standards, ‘both through the money already being put into the Alliance scheme, bids for Government grants and through devolution funding’, a spokesman said.
Cllr John McNicholas, the chair of the ITA delivery committee, said: ‘Previous partnerships have worked well and the Bus Alliance will allow us to continue the good work by achieving even higher standards.
‘Crucially, we will be working with the smaller bus operators to help them meet those new standards and ensure the network is not monopolised by the bigger companies.’
Peter Coates, managing director of National Express West Midlands said on behalf of bus operators: ‘This agreement is great news for bus users in the West Midlands.
‘It will deliver quicker journey times, newer buses, better on board services and limit fare increases. It is the first time that bus companies, highways departments and leaders of local councils have come together to deliver such a raft of improvements.’
Other aims set down in the ITA’s bus policy include.
- To increase bus patronage by 5%.
- Improvement in peak time journey speeds.
- Fare rises of no more the RPI +1% per annum.
- Customer satisfaction levels remains at over 85%.
- Discounted young person’s travel for everyone under 19-years-old.
- Integrated ticketless travel in line with intelligent mobility policy.
- Increased investment in highways infrastructure to aid journey times and reliability.
- Improvement on board through improved seating, next stop announcements and wifi.
A board of councillors, and representatives from bodies including local authorities, bus operators, the ITA, West Midlands Police, Transport Focus, will run the Alliance, which is also supported by the Department for Transport.
It will be enforced by the Traffic Commissioner in the same way as the SQP in Birmingham city centre.