National Bus Strategy is go: £220m confirmed

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The Government has announced it will create a National Bus Strategy, confirming it has earmarked £220m to improve services and boost electric bus operation.

Answering calls from the industry led by the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), the National Bus Strategy was announced on Monday (30 September) by Chancellor Sajid Javid at the Conservative Party Conference.

The £220m pot includes £50m for the country’s first all-electric-bus town, £30 million for improving existing routes and “restoring lost services”, and £20m to develop on-demand bus services.

The Government also wants to work with operators to ensure contactless payments on every bus in every city.

The Strategy also includes plans for ‘superbus’ networks; local authorities will invest in bus lanes, and operators will provide more services on them. A pilot will take place in Cornwall next year.

The CPT welcomes the news. Chief Executive Graham Vidler says: “The lack of a national strategy has to date restricted innovation and resulted in piecemeal, often uncoordinated, investment.

“Tackling congestion and providing passengers with more reliable journey times must form the central pillar of the strategy and the creation of superbus networks is an important first step.

“Local authorities and operators working together in partnerships have been shown to deliver real improvements in passenger numbers, and with one in four non-bus-users prepared to give bus a go there is significant potential for growth if we can provide them with more reliable journeys.

“We now need to build on these warm words and ensure this opportunity is not squandered.”

Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, adds: “While the funding and projects for one year are welcome, there needs to be a long-term funding settlement for buses to give local authorities and bus operators the ability to plan for years to come and ensure the sustainability of critical services for communities while stemming the cuts in services and working to increase patronage.

“As part of the National Bus Strategy the Government should also set a deadline for all new buses to be zero-emission by 2025. To support this, it should put in place a sector deal for bus manufacturing to increase the capacity of the UK bus industry to replace the existing bus fleet.”

Go-Ahead Group’s Commercial and Customer Director Katy Taylor says: “A coherent National Bus Strategy will play a vital role in drastically improving the environment by prioritising greener services that take more cars off the road and speeding up journey times.

“Electric buses, like those already introduced by Go-Ahead in parts of the UK, can also go a long way in reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality, as can landmark innovations like our air-filtering bus in Southampton, but these changes are only possible in an environment that allows for long-term planning.”