North Somerset Council and West of England Combined Authority have set up a new £2m fund called WESTlocal, in order to help local communities to better tailor public transport to their individual needs.
WESTlocal buses will allow local communities to set up and run their own permitted not-for-profit transport, which could include fixed routes, timetables or minibuses can be created to travel to key locations such as supermarkets, shopping centre, local towns and transport interchanges.
Steve Hogg, North Somerset Council’s executive member for Highways and Transport, said: “WESTlocal is open to community groups, schools, faith groups, town and parish councils and much more. Plans can include individual ideas, or it can be a group submission.
“If you can demonstrate a clear demand within the community and a plan for ongoing monitoring and improvements, there is money available to put these services in place. We want to use this funding to get successful schemes up and running as soon as possible. It will be first come, first served so we encourage applications as soon as possible.”
WESTlocal buses will be regulated so that they are available to the general public and use regular ticketing options. They not to be used for membership groups, according to the council.
What’s more, the local authority says it will accept expressions of interest that are not in competition with existing services, such as demand-led transport WESTlink and other commercial services.
WESTlocal will be a different service to WESTlink, which is a demand-led service that uses an automated vehicle to join-up passengers’ desired journeys into one trip as a means of getting people where they need to be as efficiently as possible.
WESTlocal is part of North Somerset’s Bus Improvement Service Plan (BSIP).
Following a successful bid to the Department for Transport (DfT), more than £105m in government funding has been allocated for bus improvements, with £48m earmarked for capital improvements in North Somerset specifically.
Some £57.5m will be used as a pooled revenue fund with the West of England Combined Authority to enable delivery of the BSIP.