Every part of the Midlands and North of England is set to receive a share of £150 million of new funding to improve bus services over the next financial year, the Transport Secretary has announced.
This is the first tranche of £1 billion worth of new funding that the government is dedicating to bus services across the North and the Midlands as part of the Network North Plan – with it promising further funding allocations to be announced in due course.
While it is up to local authorities in partnership with operators to decide how best to use the funding, the new funding for next year is enough to support up to 25 million miles of new bus services across the North and Midlands, helping local authorities provide more regular and reliable services or cheaper fares delivered through fare initiatives and ticket price caps.
The Government says the funding has been made possible thanks the reallocation of HS2 funding as part of the Network North plan.
Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak said: “Today’s announcement marks the start of the Network North plan coming into action.
“We’re backing buses with one of the biggest ever support packages and keeping bus fares down to ensure the country’s favourite means of transport is more affordable for millions of people.
“This government is taking the right long-term decisions to deliver on our vision for a fairer and improved transport system by investing billions back into to the transport projects that matter most to people and their communities.”
The £150 million from redirected HS2 funding is dedicated to “levelling up” bus services, with areas across the North and Midlands given extra support for services to become more frequent, more reliable, cheaper and easier to use.
Local authorities may use the additional funding to reintroduce evening services to support the night time economy, increase service frequency meaning less waiting time for passengers, introduce new routes to ensure areas previously unconnected are now connected or introduce a Demand Responsive Transport service to improve connectivity in rural areas.
The “Get Around For £2” bus fare cap scheme will also be extended again to continue to help people save money. The cap had been due to rise to £2.50 but will instead remain at £2 and continue until 31 December 2024.
Transport Secretary, Mark Harper said: “Buses are the most popular form of public transport, which is why we are continuing to back our buses with record high levels of funding – supporting vital bus services and offering affordable travel for passengers.
“This increase in funding to deliver more reliable, frequent and affordable local bus services – and to extend the £2 bus fare cap – has only been possible with the redirected HS2 funding secured by this government making the right long-term decisions for a brighter future.”
The Government says that since the £2 bus fare cap was introduced across the UK on 1 January 2023, millions of passengers have benefitted from lower fares. The Get Around for £2 scheme has helped cut bus fares in England outside London by 7.4% between June 2022 and June 2023, with savings even bigger in rural areas where fares have dropped by almost 11%.
According to initial analysis from a recent report published by the Department for Transport, the scheme has helped encourage people to get back on the bus, with almost half of respondents saying the fare cap is the main reason they are using the bus more.
The Transport Secretary adds that today also sees community services for older people and vulnerable passengers receive a 60% funding boost, and that these “lifesaver” services are vital for older and vulnerable people to get to the shops, medical appointments and see loved ones.
He says the funding increase, made through the Bus Service Operators Grant, will help keep fares down and has been hailed by charities and vulnerable passengers who have difficulty using regular buses and rely on community services to get around and combat loneliness.
(Picture – DfT)