Bus back better
15 March 2022One of the twelve priority areas for Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Inclusive Economy Plan is to ‘Improve transport access to job opportunities with increased public and active travel links, increasing connectivity to break down key barriers faced by communities.’
The Government has earmarked £3 billion towards improving bus services throughout England. In October 2021 the Council submitted an ambitious Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) for the borough to the Government, aimed at encouraging more people to travel by bus.
In addition to the submission of the BSIP, Local Transport Authorities are also required to develop an Enhanced Partnership in partnership with operators of registered bus services by April 2022 to qualify for possible future Government funding.
An Enhanced Partnership has two parts: a plan with a clear vision of the improvements to bus services that the Partnership is aiming to deliver plus an Enhanced Partnership scheme, setting out the precise detail of how the BSIP vision and objectives will be achieved.
The Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday 16 March will be asked to endorse the draft Enhanced Partnership Plan and the draft Enhanced Partnership Scheme to allow the funding application to progress.
Councillor Karen Shore, Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport, said:
“Thanks to everyone who took part in last year’s consultation, leading to the completion of the Enhanced Partnership.
“Good bus services help tackle congestion in towns and stop rural communities being cut off. They’re vital in tackling social exclusion and loneliness and can help cut air pollution and reduce carbon emissions.
“We’re working with all the bus companies operating commercial services in Cheshire West and Chester on an improvement plan and need to know what broad changes to the way bus services operate would encourage people to use them more often”
The Enhanced Partnership Scheme initiatives are ambitious but also subject to the funding being made available, to reduce the financial burden on the Council and on Operators. The Council requested £37m in October 2021 for the requirements laid out in the Bus Service Improvement Plan. A funding settlement is yet to be announced.
The Enhanced Partnership scheme objectives include operating more frequent, faster and reliable services across the borough, lowering fares to make bus travel more affordable and a simpler fares structure to help people get the best value ticket for the journey(s) they are making.