Money to update old vehicles, improve passenger facilities and encourage bus operators to innovate could be available if Staffordshire signs up to a national scheme. This week Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet will consider whether to take part in the Government’s ‘Bus Back Better’ programme aimed at developing post-pandemic public transport services. Authorities are being asked to bid for funding over a fixed period to support local operators in making their services more attractive. David Williams, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said: “Pre-pandemic there were 14.6 million passenger journeys a year in Staffordshire, though that had fallen by a third over the previous decade. “There is an opportunity here to bid for money which can be used to help modernise bus fleets, improve bus stops to make them more comfortable and provide better information, as well as encouraging operators to come forward with ideas to build services.” The county council already works with bus companies in the region and the joint group has developed ‘one ticket’ journeys across multiple operators. And, if the proposal is backed, money from ‘Bus Back Better’ could be used to fund:
‘tap on tap off’ phone technology for tickets and payment;
route audits to identify hot spots delaying journeys and the work necessary to unblock them;
clean, high quality bus shelters with real-time information displays;
raised kerbs at stops;
improved town centre interchanges;
links to walking and cycling routes.
David Williams added: “There’s no doubt that a reliable, comfortable bus service can support a town centre’s retail and leisure economy, help people get to work, or provide more choice further afield for students deciding where to study. “At the same time investment in greener, cleaner bus fleets can make a huge difference to air quality in certain areas. “If we enter this scheme we will be working closely with operators and encouraging them to develop ideas which can use this funding as a launch pad for a self-sustaining future.” Authorities must decide this month whether they wish to join the scheme and create an ‘enhanced partnership’ with operators in time for funding to be available from April next year.