Sunday single fares in December in the run-up to Christmas are set to be capped at £1 after Oxfordshire was awarded extra government funding to improve bus services.
A countywide day bus ticket valid for all operators could also be created after Oxfordshire was promised an additional £1.9 million to improve bus services over the next two years.
It comes on top of £12.7m from the government in August 2022 following the council’s successful Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) application.
The additional £1.9m of funding – known as BSIP+ – is for measures that will increase long-term patronage, help maintain service levels, ensure essential social and economic connectivity for local communities and promote innovation in the industry.
Councillor Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport Management, said: “This funding shows the importance that is placed on public transport in this county and our commitment to getting people back on to the buses. The package of proposals represents a step change in service provision across Oxfordshire, with all the districts benefitting from some level of improvement as a result.
“It will be used to fund innovative schemes such as cut-price fares in the run-up to Christmas – both this year and next year – as well as securing services that require financial support to ensure their survival, such as those affected by the closure of Oxford’s Botley Road.”
The council, in its role as local transport authority, established the Oxfordshire Bus Enhanced Partnership with the county’s private bus operators earlier this year.
The partnership brings together key stakeholders to deliver better services, ticketing and infrastructure. While bus operators retain their ability to make commercial decisions, they work closely with the council to promote improvements for passengers – bringing expertise, innovation, and the potential for external investment.
Luke Marion, Managing Director of the Oxford Bus Group, said: “This is excellent news for passengers, the bus industry and the local economy.
“We have experienced a positive impact on patronage thanks to recent government fare cap schemes and this additional support for ticketing initiatives will help to further encourage passengers to try travelling with us.
“We’re also delighted to see the county council investing in improving services and are looking forward to bringing some strategically important new links to life for Oxfordshire residents over the coming weeks.”
Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director of Stagecoach West, said: “This additional funding is good news and has enabled Stagecoach to continue to make improvements to our services between Banbury and Oxford. We’re working closely with Oxfordshire County Council to look at opportunities to improve bus services across Oxfordshire.”
One proposal is to create a day ticket that is valid on all operators’ services in Oxfordshire.
Both the county’s main bus providers, Go Ahead (Oxford Bus Group) and Stagecoach, offer day tickets for unlimited travel on their own services across Oxfordshire. There are also day tickets available within the SmartZone, which covers the area in and around Oxford city, that are valid on both operators’ services.
However, there is no countywide day ticket that can be used on all operators’ services. Money from BSIP+ is intended to be used to help create such a ticket and to support reductions in other day ticket prices to make them more attractive to passengers.
BSIP+ funding will also:
- offer financial support for the current Oxford bus network, including services affected by the Botley Road closure
- provide a new bus service between Witney, Carterton, and Swindon
- provide faster peak hour buses between Banbury and Oxford
- help retain and improve Oxford orbital services serving the hospitals, including the 700, which additionally will run on weekends for the first time.
Cllr Gant said: “We are stepping in to support services and communities financially where other organisations have been unable or unwilling to.”
Roads Minister Richard Holden said: “People up and down the country deserve a modern, reliable and affordable public transport system. That is why we have provided Oxfordshire with over £13m to help boost bus services.
“Supporting the council with capping Sunday fares at £1 in December in the run-up to Christmas and potentially introducing a countywide bus ticket valid for all operators is fantastic for local residents, who will now be able to get to work, attend medical appointments and visit loved ones for less.”
Cllr Gant added: “This BSIP+ investment comes on top of the recent extension of the cheaper park and ride joint parking and ticketing offer until April 2024, and ahead of the arrival of the first of the 159 electric buses coming to Oxfordshire as part of an £85.5m deal. And with the £2 bus fare cap now extended until the end of 2024, it really is a great time to think about using the bus.”