Bus Back Better

The Government has yesterday announced it’s plans for the National Bus Strategy, Bus Back Better, and a ‘£3 Billion bus revolution’.

View the press release here

The Prime Minister has announced the “most ambitious shake-up of the bus sector in a generation, which will see lower, simpler flat fares in towns and cities, turn-up-and-go services on main routes, and new flexible services to reconnect communities.

The government’s new bus strategy, backed by £3 billion of investment, will see passengers across England benefiting from more frequent, more reliable, easier to use and understand, better coordinated and cheaper bus services.

Levelling up services across the country will encourage more people to use the bus, rather than the car, as we build back better from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The changes include:

  • simpler bus fares with daily price caps, so people can use the bus as many times a day as they need without facing mounting costs
  • more services in the evenings and at the weekends
  • integrated services and ticketing across all transport modes, so people can easily move from bus to train
  • all buses to accept contactless payments

Hundreds of miles of new bus lanes will make journeys quicker and more reliable, getting people out of their cars, reducing pollution and operating costs.”

There is also a Consultation by the Department for Transport on when to end the sale of new diesel buses to drive forward the decarbonisation of public transport which closes on 11 April. 

How much of this will improve rural transport will have to wait to be seen.

The Rural Services Network, in its campaign Revitalising Rural sets out a number of asks of Government in the area of Rural Transport and Access to Services, as rural areas have experienced a decline in public transport provision in recent years, as Local Authority budgets are stretched and spend on discretionary services reduced.  The RSN  will be putting forward a response to this consultation as it has particular concerns around the high costs of introducing electric or hydrogen buses and their fuelling facilities which could prove problematic in rural areas. A comprehensive review is needed of the electric grid and, where appropriate, hydrogen supply, to address this risk.

The RSN will explore the detail of the Bus Back Better strategy to examine the implications for rural areas.

The RSN asks of Government for Rural Transport and Access to Services are set out below:

  • Covid-19 support: in the short-term Government must retain its emergency financial support for public transport networks, so that rural bus and rail routes survive whilst pandemic restrictions are in place and whilst passenger confidence remains low. A significant public information campaign is required as soon as social distancing restrictions can be further relaxed to re-assure people about safety and encourage them back onto public transport.
  • Bus route provision: Government must ensure that its planned National Bus Strategy has objectives for rural provision, with ambitions to better serve rural communities and their economic needs on a sustainable basis. A fair share of the extra resources now starting to flow must reach rural areas, to improve existing routes, restore valued lost routes and establish new routes where clear gaps exist. This must be backed up by ensuring predominantly rural local authorities regain and sustain their ability to offer necessary revenue support, which means Government implementing the findings of its Fair Funding Review and taking full account of the costs of rural service delivery.
  • Zero emission buses: as described in the section on decarbonisation, the high costs of introducing electric or hydrogen buses and their fuelling facilities could prove problematic in rural areas. A comprehensive review is needed of the electric grid and, where appropriate, hydrogen supply, to address this risk.
  • Community transport: The Rural Mobility Fund is useful, if modest in its scale. Lessons from that Fund’s current round should form the basis for a larger funding pot which is sustained over a longer period. It should, especially, promote the use of community and demand-responsive transport schemes which serve outlying settlements and feed into bus or rail routes. App-based journey planners and booking technologies should be piloted to attract new users, as should through ticketing between transport providers. However, in many rural areas this may require improvements to mobile connectivity.
  • Cycling and walking: Government should recognise the potential to improve cycling and walking infrastructure in rural towns, to nearby villages and in urban fringe areas. This can reduce car dependency and improve access to rural employment, services, and retail centres. Funding streams being made available to develop such infrastructure must reach rural areas and not simply focus on larger urban settlements. The condition of rural roads needs addressing as it can be a barrier to cycling.


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