“A saving grace has come for many as the UK government announced a funding boost of £150m being made available for bus and tram operators over the next six months. This funding is highly welcomed, but two questions remain – where will it be allocated, and will it be enough to support operators long-term?
“A mentality we need to get away from is the idea that areas are ‘competing’ against one another for funding. Local authorities and public transport operators have developed detailed Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs) which are specific to their area needs, and each have been eagerly awaiting decisions on what level of funding they will receive from the government’s pot of money. Realistically, funding won’t be able to cover every single proposal within every BSIP, so the government needs to really think about which elements of BSIPs should be a priority – not which areas overall should be prioritised.
“Dorset’s BSIP, for example, is proposing to channel funding into things like Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) – which would allow services to run based on demand, rather than via a traditional fixed bus route, and is already being trialled elsewhere – such as Go-Ahead’s JustGo North Lincs and Hertfordshire County Council’s HertsLynx.
“New features like DRT won’t see success overnight, as they’ll need to be trialled accordingly. Therefore, investment will need to go beyond the six months the government has proposed within its £150m funding plan. Such schemes will need to form part of an ongoing investment to make a truly sustainable and stable plan and keep vital public transport services afloat.
“Although the funding is hugely welcome, the devil is in the details. The government should tread carefully on its allocations, ensuring that they are balanced between both rural and urban locations to ensure public transport is an accessible and appealing option for more people. Everyone in the public transport industry is working towards the same goal in encouraging passenger uptake to inspire a more sustainable way of living, so we should all be given equal attention and support by the government, as much as possible. This will inspire us to work more collaboratively as an industry and achieve our end goal.”