Bath & North East Somerset Council Leader Kevin Guy has welcomed a West of England Combined Authority decision on supported bus services as a “victory for common sense”.
The move follows a decision taken by the West of England Combined Authority yesterday (14th June) to extend the supported bus contracts in Bath and North East Somerset until April 2023, to allow time to undertake a full review of the supported bus network to make sure it meets local needs.
Cllr Guy said
“This is a victory for common sense. I am delighted that WECA has listened to our views and avoided either the “cliff-edge” of massive cuts to bus services or being locked into 5-year contracts for services that may not meet the needs of local residents to access shops, health services, leisure and jobs.
“This decision means we have secured all supported bus services in Bath and North East Somerset whilst we undertake a proper network review. I look forward to this review ensuring services deliver what people need as well as exploring new and enhanced routes, funded through the Bus Service Improvement Plan. There are also huge opportunities for harnessing new technology and innovation so we can tailor services to what people actually need. We will push hard for our communities to be in the “driving seat” during the review
“A high-quality, responsive public transport network is crucial for delivering our climate emergency goals, as transport accounts for almost 30% of emissions. We look forward to harnessing local views and experiences to make sure we get this right and shape a bus network that meet local needs now and in the future.”
Under the terms of the deal an urgent review will now take place this Summer on where buses across the West of England should run. Then in April 2023, a brand new timetable will kick in. Supported services, which are those valued buses that cannot run commercially, but are important public services, will be funded through contributions from local councils and the Combined Authority.
This will include brand new bus services too, thanks to a substantial cash injection that the West of England Combined Authority led by Dan Norris won earlier this year from the Bus Service Improvement Plan Fund. This award was the second-highest anywhere in England.
These services will all be subject to a “value for money mechanism” which had been a red line for Mr Norris who was shocked to find he had inherited services that cost over £200 per passenger for each bus journey they took!
The West of England Combined Authority will also part-fund supported services until April 2023, provided that they cost less than £40 per passenger per journey.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris said:
“This is a victory for common sense. We now have a long-term plan, over a four-year period, that will offer stability for passengers and bus companies who want to invest. Leaders agreed with me to end the bonkers situation where bus routes are funded to extraordinary levels through an historic accident – and to instead plough that cash straight back into more bus services.
I want more passengers to have a reliable bus service they can depend on and come to feel proud of. This plan means we will reinvest money from fares and remove the hugely costly anomalies. My agreed plan is a vital part of keeping bus services, improving people’s opportunities and meeting our region’s important and ambitious 2030 net-zero targets.”