15 Jun Strategy To Improve Bus Services In North Northamptonshire Council Area To Be Discussed By Executive
A strategy to improve bus services in the North Northamptonshire Council area – particularly to respond to the impact that Covid-19 has had on the sector – will be discussed by the authority’s Executive next week.
Forming part of the Government’s National Bus Strategy – recommendations put before the Executive include forming an ‘Enhanced Partnership’ with bus companies, towns and parishes, passengers and businesses.
Such an arrangement would allow access to a £3 billion funding pot to assist with sustaining and developing bus routes, which otherwise could potentially be lost as they would not be deemed commercially viable.
Cllr Jason Smithers, Leader of the Council said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact everywhere and it seems no sector is untouched by this unprecedented situation.
“Government, both local and national plays a key role in situations like this to ensure all the relevant partners are connected so we can find pragmatic solutions that are of benefit to the residents of North Northants.”
Cllr Graham Lawman, Executive Member for Highways, Travel and Assets, said: “A key priority for the council is enhancing links between communities, particularly rural ones, as this has widespread benefits not just in the wellbeing of residents but also in terms of a healthy economy.
“The environmental benefits of us all making more journeys on public transport are also well known.
“Covid-19 has had a dramatic effect on all areas of our lives and bus transport has been very badly hit as services have been used less frequently because of lockdowns and increased working from home, at the same time as increased spacing has been required on buses.
“We are focussed on developing a strategy which will keep both bus routes and demand responsive services alive in the most efficient way possible to make sure that North Northamptonshire is well connected and communities continue to thrive. This is an exciting opportunity to do just that.”
Due to the need to ensure that essential journeys could still be made, the Government has supported the bus industry with the COVID-19 Bus Service Support Grant (CBSSG), however, this funding arrangement will soon come to an end.
Throughout lockdown, the Council has continued to support bus services in a number of ways. This includes continuing to underwrite concessionary fare payments to bus companies for bus passes at pre-Covid levels in order to give them financial certainty. The council has also worked together with them to provide greater capacity to deal with social distancing requirements.
In March 2021 the Government published Bus Back Better, the National Bus Strategy for England to transform bus services and help the bus industry recover from the effects of COVID-19.
The strategy encourages councils to form Enhanced Partnerships with the bus operators which will enable delivery of improvements for passengers such as improved timetables and multi-operator ticketing.
In order to proceed with the strategy and access future Government funding for buses, the Department of Transport (DfT) has asked councils to demonstrate a commitment to develop plans by June 30, 2021, and requires councils to publish their own Bus Service Improvement Plan by the end of October 2021.
The DfT requires all Enhanced Partnerships to be in place by April 2022.