Birmingham City Council will continue to support buses as the city recovers from Covid-19 and its subsequent lockdown, it has said as part of its Birmingham Bus Statement, published this week.
In Birmingham, says the council, 36% of households do not have access to a car, making buses an essential service for accessing education, retail and employment. 750,000 journeys were made by bus in the last week of June 2020, as lockdown restrictions eased.
The policy is being led by Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, Councillor Waseem Zaffar MBE, who has also committed to lobbying government for bus passes and travel concessions for those seeking employment and training opportunities as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
TfWM and Birmingham City Council has committed £173 million to schemes that benefit bus travel including: bus priority measures, road re-allocation measures, bus gate schemes, and the deployment of 20 new hydrogen buses on key routes.
Councillor Zaffar said: “We have recognised that as we recover from Covid-19 there is an urgent need to support the bus industry. Buses are essential for social mobility, providing our residents and workers access to education, employment and health services.
“In the short term we as a council have a responsibility to ensure that bus services are maintained and supported for those that depend on them. I will be personally lobbying the government for the provision of travel concessions and bus passes to those who are now seeking new employment and training, such as apprenticeships, in the aftermath of this pandemic.”
“Longer term, we need to help bus travel to regrow by continuing to reallocate road space, upgrade interchanges, and improve the convenience and reliability of services.”
The need to reduce Birmingham’s dependency on private car was a key focus of the 2019 Draft Birmingham Transport Plan, with firm commitments made to deliver public transport improvements that would create a better environment for the city’s residents.
This was re-iterated in the council’s Emergency Transport Plan, which aimed to set-out ambitions for a green recovery from the pandemic. Whilst it acknowledged the importance of reliable bus services during restrictions, it also committed to ensuring that any temporary measures were not to the detriment of bus operations in the future.
Councillor Zaffar added: “The current advice is to travel safely, wear a face covering on buses, and cycle and walk where you can. I’m pleased to see that this is being supported by funding for walking and cycling.
“However, encouraging people to choose public transport over private car will remain a key component of our long-term transport strategy. We should be reminded that bus operators made a significant contribution during this pandemic, transporting key workers to our hospitals, care homes and schools.
“As we begin to return to a new normal, we must now support them in restoring the public’s confidence in public transport and ensuring it remains a fundamental key component of Birmingham’s transport system.”
The Birmingham Bus Statement is available for download on the Birmingham City Council website.