Lower fares, integrated ticket systems, and more bus lanes to be included in new ‘Bus Back Better’ push
Thirty-one counties, city regions, and unitary authorities are in line to benefit from a £7bn overhaul of local transport networks, the government has today announced.
The funding will be used to ‘level up’ local bus services, as part of government’s bus transformation programme, the Department for Transport said, adding that just under two-thirds of England’s population outside London will benefit from the funding awarded to date through the programme.
Under the plan, the government aims to ensure buses are more frequent, more reliable, easier to understand and use, cheaper, and greener, the government said, with new bus lanes and integrated ticket systems introduced to help speed up journeys.
“Buses are the most popular way of getting around in this country – but for too long people outside of London have had a raw deal,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. “The investment we’re making today to ramp up the bus revolution will drive down fares at a time when people’s finances are tight and help connect communities across England.”
Areas that stand to benefit include Portsmouth, Stoke-on-Trent, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, West Midlands, Liverpool City Region, North East and North of Tyne Combined Authorities, Reading, Norfolk, Luton, York and Warrington.
In addition, the government has also confirmed that tram and light rail operators across the Midlands and the North will also receive more than £37m of government support, including operators in Manchester, the North East Nexus, the West Midlands, Sheffield, and Nottingham.
In addition, Cornwall is to pilot many of the measures designed to improve bus services, backed by £23.5m from the government. From 10 April, most bus fares in the county will be slashed, with short hop fares down by 20 per cent, longer journeys costing up to 40 per cent less and some bus passes cut by almost 50 per cent. Passes for unlimited bus travel across Cornwall will cost just £5 per day – down from £9 now – or just £20 per week. Town zones will also offer travel for just £2.50 per day or £10 for a week, meaning that for commuters travelling five days a week fares will cost just £1 per journey.
Meanwhile, the government is also providing bus operators across England with a further £150m to maintain service levels as passenger numbers continue to recover after the pandemic.
The news comes just days after the government said it would provide £200m for almost 1,000 new electric or hydrogen buses, bringing the total funded in England to 2,000.
The government hailed the latest funding awards of further evidence of its commitment to improve bus services so as to boost regional development and slash carbon emissions. However, the Opposition has repeatedly accused the government of failing to provide sufficient funding to bus services that are continuing to face cuts in parts of the country, with reports earlier this year suggesting the original budget for the Bus Back Better programme had been slashed by the Treasury.