New government bus funding

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daodao

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The government has said studying bus timetables will become a thing of the past as it promised hundreds of miles of new bus lanes and more frequent services in England.
The £3bn plan will make buses across the country cheaper and easier to use, the Department for Transport said.
It is promising services that are so frequent passengers will be able to "turn up and go."
But the plan has been met with scepticism from unions and Labour.
Miles of new bus lanes and more services promised - BBC News

Call me a cynic, but I suspect many local authorities will look this gift horse in the mouth. It seems to be "one off" funding, but unless the pump priming leads to increased bus use that is commercially viable in the medium to long-term, establishing additional bus services (whether conventional or DRT) will lead to additional bus subsidy requirements, which will be unsustainable. Some money could be used for infrastructure improvements, e.g. bus lanes and other priority measures, but that won't help rural buses particularly. Service frequencies that enable passengers to "turn up and go" are only feasible in densely populated inner urban areas.
 
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carlberry

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The money for alternative fuels is similar to what has been happening for many years. The 'UK built' feature is likely to cover UK finished vehicles especially as a large part of the value of UK built vehicles for many years has been imported and items like batteries are just making this more likely. The miles of new bus lanes may eventually compensate for those that have been lost recently in areas like Liverpool. £3bn might sound a lot however when £80bn can be found to speed up one train line it's very little. Boris loves coming up with meaningless PR that makes him look good, at least he hasnt promised a 'New bus for the North', however some of the new buses might be needed for the Northern Ireland - Scotland bridge/tunnel/wormhole when it's built.
 

JonathanP

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The fragmented, fully commercialised market, which has operated outside London since 1986 will end. We want to see operators and local councils enter into a statutory “enhanced partnership” or franchising agreements to receive the new funding and deliver the improvements.

It is expected that many councils will choose enhanced partnerships, where local authorities work closely with bus companies, drawing on their operating knowledge and marketing skills. Others may decide that franchising works better for them.
On the face of it this sounds like a major reform. However, it's unclear from the press release how these "expectations" will be put into practice.
 

TheGrandWazoo

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The money for alternative fuels is similar to what has been happening for many years. The 'UK built' feature is likely to cover UK finished vehicles especially as a large part of the value of UK built vehicles for many years has been imported and items like batteries are just making this more likely. The miles of new bus lanes may eventually compensate for those that have been lost recently in areas like Liverpool. £3bn might sound a lot however when £80bn can be found to speed up one train line it's very little. Boris loves coming up with meaningless PR that makes him look good, at least he hasnt promised a 'New bus for the North', however some of the new buses might be needed for the Northern Ireland - Scotland bridge/tunnel/wormhole when it's built.

Like @daodao and @carlberry, I share the profound level of cynicism. Don't get me wrong - I really want to see more funding for bus services - making them more resilient against increasing traffic, restoring some lost links etc. Just that this is likely to be administered by the DfT and/or local authorities and they've a woeful record of delivery.

With no sense of irony, the BBC article shows a First Kernow bus on a service transferred to Go Cornwall Bus about a year ago; part of a county-wide tender exercise where all tendered services were won by Go-Ahead as prime contractor, supported by partner independents who already operated many routes. A rushed implementation was bad enough but there's now two networks - First's commercial and Go-Ahead's tendered working independently of each other so tickets are not inter-available between operators on the same service (e.g. where First operates commercially and Go-Ahead operates early morning, evening or Sundays). Cornwall has upgraded frequencies but hardly "turn up and travel" regularity. Instead, what you have is the support of early morning, evening, and Sunday services; measures that do make sense. However, there are numerous instances of enhanced services (2 hourly becomes hourly) or completely new routes with seemingly little justification across very sparsely inhabited territory.

I'd love to see some really targetted spending that is aimed at fundamentally improving bus priority, some support to the bus manufacturing industry, and a structure that isn't too bureaucratic whereby operators/LAs get funding to improve patronage rather than frittering money on services that are of interest to two pensioners, a dog, a tartan shopping trolley, and the occasional mad enthusiast!
 

smtglasgow

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As with everything that comes from this government, the devil will be in the detail (what are the chances of the money being skewed to Tory target seats as per the budget), but this *could* be transformational. I like the mention of better evening services. Poor transport *within* deprived areas is a real barrier to outside investment. Councils and MPs tend to bang on about better links to the rest of country (usually code for fast trains to London), but employers are looking for a large pool of available labour – and local buses that disappear after 6pm locks people who want to work out of employment. So, maybe, this could be a bit of a gamechanger. But I’d be worried that the government is really looking for something to point at to red wall voters in 2023/24 ie. a rush to spend the cash on shiny baubles. This needs to be thought through rather than just spaffed up the wall - as our beloved PM would say.
 

Aictos

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Well with regards to ticketing, could not validity be based on the existing Plusbus zones so a single brought in such a zone could be used on any bus operating over that route?

Or could we instead see local authority's take a example from Birmingham and have one main company operate the majority of the buses which would make it easier to roll out service improvements.
 
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Sounds like a reintroduction of the Rural Bus Grant(RBG) - but on an extended basis. And how many of the new RBG routes/journeys lasted beyond the end of funding - I know in Nottinghamshire one service went from 3 buses per day to hourly with evening buses. When funding ended it became a one journey a day service that now no longer runs. Complete waste of money for the whole time the service ran.
 

Bletchleyite

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Sounds like a reintroduction of the Rural Bus Grant(RBG) - but on an extended basis. And how many of the new RBG routes/journeys lasted beyond the end of funding - I know in Nottinghamshire one service went from 3 buses per day to hourly with evening buses. When funding ended it became a one journey a day service that now no longer runs. Complete waste of money for the whole time the service ran.

Certainly if nobody uses it it's a waste - but in my observation it takes 3-5 years for a new route to establish itself commercially if it's going to.
 

Llandudno

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I wonder if Cumbria or North Yorkshire will apply for any of the cash, as currently, apart from school buses, they do not (as far as I am aware) subsidise any bus services..
 

Surreyman

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Would like to think that the funding for "4000" Electric/Hydrogen buses would go to areas with CAQ - 'Clean Air Quality issues' - these are mostly urban areas across England (The fund doesn't cover Scotland or Wales).
if they are like other awards, it will be the difference in purchase price between Euro 6 Diesel and Electric/Hydrogen plus some for infrastructure.
This is likely to favour the Big companies -0 First, Stagecoach, Arriva, Go-Ahead & National Express plus the Lothians/Nottinghams/Readings of the publicly owned operators.
Those with large modern depots with space to fit infrastructure are best placed (Easily connecting into the nat' grid too, power supply issues would be a deterrent).
There is a published list of towns/cities across the UK ranked by air Quality ratings - numbers of days per year when permissible air quality limits are breached.
 

Andyh82

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I will question the line about them wanting buses to be 'Turn up and go'

In West Yorks many urban buses have had their frequencies gradually reduced (stuff that was every 10 mins is now often every 15 mins, every 15 now every 20 etc etc), are they really saying that public money would be used on commercial corridors like this, rather than funding links that have had their service withdrawn entirely?

Like many things to do with buses, politically the main focus, particularly from Labour will be on who runs the buses rather than the services themselves and they will point to these massive profits that they are all apparently making.

We know that bus company profits are modest at best
 

edwin_m

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I wonder if Cumbria or North Yorkshire will apply for any of the cash, as currently, apart from school buses, they do not (as far as I am aware) subsidise any bus services..
I've already posted on the DRT thread the recipients of money for trials of it. Seems rather lacking in red/blue wall seats. Rural mobility fund - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
1
Buckinghamshire Council (Aylesbury)

£ 1,114,000

2

Buckinghamshire Council (High Wycombe)

£ 736,000

3

Cheshire East Council

£ 1,260,000

4

Cheshire West and Chester Council

£ 1,075,000

5

Cumbria County Council

£ 1,500,000

6

Essex County Council (Central Essex)

£ 1,493,000

7

Essex County Council (South Braintree)

£ 1,082,000

8

Gloucestershire County Council

£ 1,352,000

9

Hertfordshire County Council (North East)

£ 1,472,000

10

Leicestershire County Council

£ 1,300,000

11

Norfolk County Council

£ 700,000

12

North Lincolnshire Council

£ 912,232

13

Nottinghamshire County Council

£ 1,497,000

14

Staffordshire County Council

£ 1,038,091

15

Surrey County Council

£ 660,200

16

Warwickshire County Council

£ 1,020,000

17

Wiltshire Council

£ 1,200,000
 

CdBrux

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With some words from Boris to introduce it:

I love buses, and I have never quite understood why so few governments before mine have felt the same way. A couple of years ago, I unintentionally broke the internet with the widelymocked, but true, statement that one of my hobbies is making models of buses. As mayor of London, I was proud to evict from the capital that mobile roadblock, the bendy bus, and to replace it with a thousand sleek, green, streetgracing New Routemasters. Buses are the country’s favourite mode of public transport too – used for twice as many journeys as trains, from thousands more stopping-places across the country. They get teenagers to college. They drive pensioners to see their friends. They connect people to jobs they couldn’t otherwise take. They sustain town centres, they strengthen communities and they protect the environment. They are lifelines and they are liberators. Some people ask what levelling-up means in practice, and what difference it will really make to people’s lives. This is part of what it means. As we build back from the pandemic, better buses will be one of our major acts of levelling-up. As successive mayors showed in London, buses are the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to improve transport. In only a few years, policies started by my Labour predecessor and which I built on transformed the service. With frequent buses, low fares, and priority lanes to glide past traffic, we made London’s bus network a natural choice for everyone, not just those without cars. Usage rose by more than half.

Outside London, with a few exceptions, that lesson has not been learned. For governments of all colours before this one, the bus has been last in the queue, with a fraction of the investment and political attention given to other, shinier things. Traffic has increased, but bus priority has stagnated, and some councils are actually taking bus lanes out. As services get slower, they become more expensive to run and less attractive to passengers. It is a classic vicious circle, which we intend to break. Last year, we announced £3bn of new funding to level up buses across England towards London standards. This strategy describes how we will use that money. Just as we already have in the capital, we want main road services in cities and towns to run so often that you don’t need a timetable. We want better services in the evenings and weekends, to reflect people’s 24- hour lives and to provide safe, reliable transport for key workers. In places unserved or barely served by conventional buses, such as rural villages and out-of-town business parks, we want more demand responsive services with smaller vehicles.
We want simple, cheap flat fares that you can pay with a contactless card, with daily and weekly price capping across operators, rail and tram too. We want a network that feels like a network, with easy-to-understand services, consistent high standards and comprehensive information at the touch of a phone. We want 4,000 new green buses, and many others, running faster and more reliably in special lanes. As in London, all that will need councils, who control the roads, and bus operators to work together.

Our job has changed because of Covid. In some ways it is harder. Bus use has dropped, though by less than on the railways. In some ways it is easier. The industry has had almost £1bn in emergency funding, and will need significant public support for some time to come. The deal for operators is that we will give you that support, and the measures to unstick traffic that you have wanted for years – but in return, we need your cooperation and partnership to deliver the policies in this strategy. In every way, the pandemic has made our job more urgent. We must build back greener, minimising pollution and tackling the congestion that clogs up our towns and cities. But as the country recovers, this strategy looks to the long term.
 

higthomas

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The report has been published at https://assets.publishing.service.g...-Better-national-bus-strategy-for-England.pdf

Some quotes I found interesting from my quick skim:

By the end of June 2021, we expect all LTAs, except MCAs which have started the statutory process of franchising bus services, to commit to establishing Enhanced Partnerships across their entire areas under the Bus Services
Act, and all operators to co-operate with the LTA throughout the process. LTAs which also wish to pursue franchising may do so – but they should commit to implementing Enhanced Partnerships in the meantime until the franchising Process, which can be lengthy, is complete. LTAs which Are not mayoral combined authorities and wish to pursue franchising will need to satisfy the Secretary of State that they have the capability and resources to do so, and that it will better deliver service improvements for passengers.


By the end of October 2021, we expect all LTAs to publish a local Bus Service Improvement Plan, detailing how they propose to use their powers to improve services
 

Hardcastle

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I wonder if Cumbria or North Yorkshire will apply for any of the cash, as currently, apart from school buses, they do not (as far as I am aware) subsidise any bus services..
North Yorkshire do subsidise some services but Cumbria don't except school services.
 

HSTEd

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£3bn is not going to be enough to make any serious difference to anything.

You need ten times that much or more.
 

cnjb8

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I wonder if Cumbria or North Yorkshire will apply for any of the cash, as currently, apart from school buses, they do not (as far as I am aware) subsidise any bus services..
Oxfordshire might be on that list too. I find it disappointing these councils can't fund bus services, you have to wonder if Cumbria will use their money to provide at least some subsidy
 

Llandudno

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Oxfordshire might be on that list too. I find it disappointing these councils can't fund bus services, you have to wonder if Cumbria will use their money to provide at least some subsidy
I wonder if some Counties will use the ‘new’ money to fund their existing school services and divert existing funding to other council services....sorry if a appear cynical!
 

TheGrandWazoo

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Oxfordshire might be on that list too. I find it disappointing these councils can't fund bus services, you have to wonder if Cumbria will use their money to provide at least some subsidy
Oxfordshire have already reinstated some services with additional funding already released albeit only a fraction of what they did before chopping stuff, as Roger French commented a few months back

 

carlberry

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I wonder if some Counties will use the ‘new’ money to fund their existing school services and divert existing funding to other council services....sorry if a appear cynical!
The new money will have to be allocated to whatever new projects the councils come up with (which might not stop them proposing enhanced school services). If it was properly thought out there would be an expectation that the funding will last long enough to make a difference via commitments from the councils however this is unlikely to be cast in stone so it'll be an easy cut in a couple of years time.
 

Hophead

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There's certainly some interesting snippets in there:
  • "Local branding that reflects the community and not the operator should be adopted, though successful existing brands such as Harrogate’s 36 should not be sacrificed." Stagecoach - think this means you!
  • "In one Home Counties town with generally excellent bus services, misguided landscaping and redevelopment around the railway station moved bus stops further away." - any guesses? Or could it be pretty much anywhere really?
  • "Overprovision on a few urban corridors with dozens of competing buses every hour should be reduced to boost under provision elsewhere." but I haven't yet got to the bit where they say how this is going to happen (though I'd say this is much less of a problem than it used to be, as passenger numbers have dropped and the big groups have strengthened their hold)
I'll see if I have time to read all 84 pages this evening (though there are a lot of pictures)
 

Andyh82

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There's certainly some interesting snippets in there:
  • "Local branding that reflects the community and not the operator should be adopted, though successful existing brands such as Harrogate’s 36 should not be sacrificed." Stagecoach - think this means you!
  • "In one Home Counties town with generally excellent bus services, misguided landscaping and redevelopment around the railway station moved bus stops further away." - any guesses? Or could it be pretty much anywhere really?
  • "Overprovision on a few urban corridors with dozens of competing buses every hour should be reduced to boost under provision elsewhere." but I haven't yet got to the bit where they say how this is going to happen (though I'd say this is much less of a problem than it used to be, as passenger numbers have dropped and the big groups have strengthened their hold)
I'll see if I have time to read all 84 pages this evening (though there are a lot of pictures)
On the same page, what about the seaside resort with two separate operators, with duplicated service numbers?

First one that would spring to mind might be Bournemouth with Yellow Buses and More?
 

Hophead

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On the same page, what about the seaside resort with two separate operators, with duplicated service numbers?

First one that would spring to mind might be Bournemouth with Yellow Buses and More?

I was thinking Southend perhaps?
 

Typhoon

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What I had not realised is that this is not 'new money', having been originally announced last year. (Rough) transcript of interview with Graham Vidler (Confederation of Passenger Transport) on 'You and Yours' (15/03) www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000t3zy (item starts at 30:00, interview starts at 32:20).

Presenter: So we looked up what the announcements that were made last year. So last February the government pledged 5 billion pounds for buses and cycling.

Vidler: So 2 billion of that has already been allocated to cycling and walking schemes that leaves 3 billion pounds for bus services.

Presenter: So that isn't a new 3 billion pounds, its a 3 billion that was announced last year, last February?

Vidler: That is correct, it is part of the 5 billion that was announced prior to the pandemic. What today's strategy does is to give it some context and talk about how that money is going to be spent and how it is intended to be spent on really important areas like bus priority ...

(it goes on to link with chats with passengers at the start of the piece.


I may have missed it but I don't recall any indication that this is the same money that had previously been announced, although I shouldn't be surprised. Sorry if that is what posters have assumed.
 

carlberry

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What I had not realised is that this is not 'new money', having been originally announced last year. (Rough) transcript of interview with Graham Vidler (Confederation of Passenger Transport) on 'You and Yours' (15/03) www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000t3zy (item starts at 30:00, interview starts at 32:20).

Presenter: So we looked up what the announcements that were made last year. So last February the government pledged 5 billion pounds for buses and cycling.

Vidler: So 2 billion of that has already been allocated to cycling and walking schemes that leaves 3 billion pounds for bus services.

Presenter: So that isn't a new 3 billion pounds, its a 3 billion that was announced last year, last February?

Vidler: That is correct, it is part of the 5 billion that was announced prior to the pandemic. What today's strategy does is to give it some context and talk about how that money is going to be spent and how it is intended to be spent on really important areas like bus priority ...

(it goes on to link with chats with passengers at the start of the piece.


I may have missed it but I don't recall any indication that this is the same money that had previously been announced, although I shouldn't be surprised. Sorry if that is what posters have assumed.
Today just meant it worked in with the local elections in May. It will be announced again next year when the councils have forwarded their proposals (expect a few rejects of proposals by Labour controlled councils at that time if they're coming up for re-election) and it'll be announced again later next year when the first actual approvals start (assuming the treasury haven't vetoed it by then).

I'd love to be able to say I'm being cynical!

There's certainly some interesting snippets in there:
  • "Overprovision on a few urban corridors with dozens of competing buses every hour should be reduced to boost under provision elsewhere." but I haven't yet got to the bit where they say how this is going to happen (though I'd say this is much less of a problem than it used to be, as passenger numbers have dropped and the big groups have strengthened their hold)
I'll see if I have time to read all 84 pages this evening (though there are a lot of pictures)
How does that actually fit with the spin line of 'It is promising services that are so frequent passengers will be able to "turn up and go."' if the proposal is that any that are frequent will just be robbed?
 

A0wen

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Miles of new bus lanes and more services promised - BBC News

Call me a cynic, but I suspect many local authorities will look this gift horse in the mouth. It seems to be "one off" funding, but unless the pump priming leads to increased bus use that is commercially viable in the medium to long-term, establishing additional bus services (whether conventional or DRT) will lead to additional bus subsidy requirements, which will be unsustainable. Some money could be used for infrastructure improvements, e.g. bus lanes and other priority measures, but that won't help rural buses particularly. Service frequencies that enable passengers to "turn up and go" are only feasible in densely populated inner urban areas.

The big risk will be the number of Town Hall Hitlers going mad on bus lanes to grab the money on offer, which will alienate other road users who will then avoid the already declining town centres, which in turn will tip some town centres over the edge.

We've already today seen Thornton's announce their stores won't be reopening and you've got John Lewis talking about closing stores - expect places like Sheffield, Nottingham, Reading, Norwich and Cambridge to lose out.

Making it a war on the motorist will backfire on the councils which do this.
 

WatcherZero

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I may have missed it but I don't recall any indication that this is the same money that had previously been announced, although I shouldn't be surprised. Sorry if that is what posters have assumed.

It is indeed the same £3bn announced last year and if you read the report it says it will be at least next year before any significant quantity of it starts getting spent other than a few tens of millions for overheads for councils and feasibility studies.

Having read it a couple of things stand out:
1. Its pretty much been personally written by Boris himself, hes attaching his name all over it.
2. It supports bus franchising and quality bus partnerships, though the emphasis is on partnerships rather than franchising.
3. The Government is banning bus companies from receiving infrastructure investment or co-vid relief funds for any bus service unless they sign up for a bus partnership within a couple of months, they also state they intend to remove the Bus Service Operators Grant for any operator not within a partnership within a year. Essentially any Bus route that isnt franchised or in a partnership with a local authority specifying fares, routes, frequency and quality of service will be banned from receiving public funds.
4. This essentially is a Conservative government signalling they intend to kill off purely commercial bus operations. (though there is a minor reprieve teased for very rural areas where the local authority lacks the expertise to provide the required level of engagement)
 

Typhoon

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Today just meant it worked in with the local elections in May. It will be announced again next year when the councils have forwarded their proposals (expect a few rejects of proposals by Labour controlled councils at that time if they're coming up for re-election) and it'll be announced again later next year when the first actual approvals start (assuming the treasury haven't vetoed it by then).

I'd love to be able to say I'm being cynical!
Possibly something in early September so they can boast about it at COP26? ('We are getting things done').
 

cnjb8

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Oxfordshire have already reinstated some services with additional funding already released albeit only a fraction of what they did before chopping stuff, as Roger French commented a few months back

Thank you! I couldn't remember if that service was just Gloucestershire funded
 
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