Concern has again been raised that ministers are unduly dragging their heels in delivering the promised £3bn funding towards better bus services in England outside London that they committed to some time ago.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce in his autumn Budget on 27 October that £1.2bn of the £3bn will go to bus infrastructure, fare and service improvements in cities. While it is possible that more will be formally allocated by Mr Sunak at that point, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has expressed doubt that will be the case.
In particular, CPT has highlighted the glacial pace of the rollout of funding towards the 4,000 zero-emission buses (ZEBs) that form a centrepiece of National Bus Strategy for England policy. CPT says that the release of an initial £1.2bn “falls far short” of what is required, noting that ministers’ “rhetoric is unfortunately not being matched by reality.”
The Confederation is calling for Mr Sunak to use the parallel Spending Review to “set out the full picture for how the ambition that we share with government to improve services will be delivered, including a long-term roadmap for [the] 4,000 ZEBs.”
A failure to begin awarding money towards those has drawn consternation from vehicle OEMs. They have repeatedly called upon ministers to act. Alexander Dennis, Switch Mobility and Wrightbus joined forces with MPs on 20 October to highlight the matter by each parking one of their ZEBs prominently in Westminster to highlight the lack of action.
In announcing the delivery of the first £1.2bn, the Treasury says that the money will deliver “Transport for London-style improvements” to the areas that it benefits. The locations that will benefit from the funding “will be selected in the coming months.”
Bus services in at least seven English city regions will also benefit from a five-year, £5.7bn City Region Sustainable Transport Settlements (CRSTS) mechanism. While much of that will go to rail-based and active travel modes, bus-based projects in each of those city regions are listed by the government as being potentially due to be funded via CRSTS.