Local authorities in the Midlands and North of England are to receive £150m to improve bus services over the next financial year, the UK transport secretary has announced.
The funding has been reallocated from the cancelled HS2 project and represents the first tranche of £1bn in government funding as part of the Network North plan – with further funding allocations to be announced in due course.
In total, £36bn will be redirected from HS2 to transport infrastructure projects throughout the Midlands and Northern England.
News of the funding boost came as the government also announced that the Get Around For £2 bus fare cap scheme had been extended until 31 December 2024 – having been due to rise to £2.50 at the end of October.
Introduced on 01 January 2023, the initiative has helped cut bus fares in England outside London by a reported 7.4% between June 2022 and June 2023, with savings said to be even bigger in rural areas where fares have reportedly dropped by almost 11%.
Reiterating the government’s commitment to improving public transport, transport secretary Mark Harper said: “This increase in funding to deliver more reliable, frequent and affordable local bus services – and to extend the £2 bus fare cap – has only been possible with the redirected HS2 funding.”
While it is up to local authorities in partnership with operators as to how they allocate funding, estimates using Annual Bus Statistics 2021/22 suggest that 25 million miles of new bus services can be supported.
Local authorities have also been encouraged to reintroduce evening services, introduce new routes and increase service frequency, or introduce a demand-responsive transport service to improve connectivity in rural areas.
Community services for older people and vulnerable passengers, or so-called ‘lifesaver’ services, will also receive a 60% funding boost.
Funded through the Bus Service Operators Grant, £260m in annual payments aim to reduce fares and provide a service for older and vulnerable people unable to use motor vehicles.
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