BSIP funding – industry reacts
After a long wait, recipients of the £7bn Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) funding have been announced. Throwing up much speculation where the money would go in the run up, the industry has reacted to the announcement.
Millions ‘left disappointed’
CPT was quick to comment. On the day of the announcement, a spokesperson from the trade body said: “Today is an important milestone in the Government’s National Bus Strategy. Operators are ready to engage with successful local authorities to deliver their joint plans for improvement in bus services as quickly as possible to help deliver important goals such as the drive to net zero and economic growth across the country.
“It is important that we remember though that there will be millions of passengers left disappointed by today’s announcement as their local area missed out on funding. It’s vital that the Government now clearly sets out future funding plans and policy initiatives for delivering its National Bus Strategy, including measures to reduce car use. This will ensure that today’s announcement is the beginning not the end of plans to improve bus services across the country. A good place to start would be to confirm funding for the industry’s plan to deliver simpler and price capped ticketing across the country – a move that would improve bus services for passengers everywhere.”
Only ‘minority of places’ win out
Campaign for Better Transport noted only 40% of authorities that submitted a BSIP bid received funding. Paul Tuohy, Chief Executive of the charity, said: “Improving buses in a minority of places does not live up to the promise of a national bus strategy, though locally it will be very welcome. Rather than this fragmented, competitive way of funding local buses we want to see more of a focus on revenue funding to ensure every community gets the bus service it needs and deserves. With a large number of losers from today’s announcement, it’s important communities that have missed out are not left behind, and that those local authorities are given the funding and support through the long-awaited Bus Centre of Excellence to overcome barriers to being successful in the future.”
Campaign for Better Transport is warning that, with an estimated £10 billion needed by local authorities to improve bus services, the money awarded falls short. Mr Tuohy added: “If Treasury were to redirect just a fifth of its £27 billion road building budget, it could help save local buses from disaster.”
Now for a national operator’s point of view. Janette Bell, MD First Bus, said: “First Bus is very supportive of the Government’s ambition, outlined in the National Bus Strategy (NBS), to improve bus services and increase the number of people travelling by bus across the country. We have been active in working with our Local Transport Authority (LTA) partners to feed into Bus Service Improvement Plans. We welcome the funding Government has announced today and are delighted that some of our partner authorities have been successful, receiving transformational funding. The Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) development process has highlighted the extent of local ambitions and aspirations. We will continue to deliver Government’s ambitions with LTAs as an innovative, experienced operator and will continue our work to improve services in all of our areas, in the spirit of the National Bus Strategy. We are now looking forward to delivering the plans on the ground.”
David Sidebottom, director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Passengers tell us they want frequent, punctual and reliable bus services that offer better value for money. They will welcome this significant investment to provide more affordable services.
“Operators and local authorities must continue to work together to ensure this investment focuses on the things that matter most to passengers, help get people back onboard bus and tackle climate change.”
Dawn Badminton-Capps, Bus Users Director for England, said: “This is great news for the 31 local authorities whose bids were successful and we hope those regions see improvements in their bus services as a matter of urgency.
“Many local authorities were unsuccessful, however, despite facing rising costs and falling passenger numbers across their networks. We are at risk of widening the transport gap and leaving communities cut off entirely from employment, education and vital services.
“For the National Bus Strategy to achieve the levelling-up promised by Government we need more funding being made available to even more local authorities so no community is left behind.”