Bus services across the country are set to be “transformed with simpler fares, thousands of new buses, improved routes and higher frequencies”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.
In a statement to Parliament, he announced £5 billion of new funding to overhaul bus and cycle links for every region outside London.
Johnson set out a new vision to level up local transport connections throughout the country, making every day journeys easier, greener and more convenient.
The package of investment promises to boost bus services by focusing on a range of priorities, set to include:
- Higher frequency services, including evenings and weekends, to make it easier and less restrictive for people to get around at any time of day
- More ‘turn up and go’ routes where, thanks to higher frequency, people won’t have to rely on timetables to plan journeys
- New priority schemes will make routes more efficient, so that buses avoid congested routes and can speed passengers through traffic
- More affordable, simpler fares
- At least 4,000 new Zero Emission Buses to make greener travel the convenient option, driving forward the UK’s progress on its net zero ambitions
The details of these programmes will be announced in the upcoming National Bus Strategy, to be published later this year at the Comprehensive Spending Review, and follows the allocation of £170 million last week to support more electric buses, increase rural mobility and trial new ‘Superbus’ services.
Cycle routes are also set to see a major boost across the country with over 250 miles of new, high-quality separated cycle routes and safe junctions in towns and cities to be constructed across England, as part of the multi-billion pound package announced today.
According to the Government’s press release, dozens of new ‘Mini-Holland’ schemes will be taken forward to transform town centres across the country to make them safer to get around. These pilots of low-traffic neighbourhoods, will see government working closely with local councils to reduce lorry traffic, making side streets safer to walk, cycle and play in while maintaining the vehicle access people need to get around.
As a core part of the Government’s work to create a long-term cycling programme and budget, all new routes will be built to tough new design standards, ensuring more people can cycle safely and making getting around by bike a more convenient option.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Local transport connections have a truly transformative role to play in levelling up infrastructure across the country.
“Our daily journeys for work or leisure are about so much more than just getting from A to B – they are the key to accessing skilled jobs and opportunities, boosting businesses and unlocking economic growth for towns, cities and regions across this country.
“That’s why improving connectivity by overhauling bus services and making cycling easier than ever is such an important step forward, to make sure every community has the foundations it needs to thrive.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We want everyone across this country to have the transport services they need to improve their lives and opportunities – to do that, we must invest in the here and now.
“Through today’s buses funding we’ll be bringing about a transformation in bus services to every community, speeding up journeys and capping fares to make high-quality services the norm.
“Our long-term commitment to cycling could not be clearer, with money for new routes, more cyclist support and new ‘Mini-Holland’ schemes, set to make our streets the safest they have been for cyclists.”
Level up regions
Chancellor Sajid Javid said: “We want to level up transport services in every region of the UK. As part of the plan, we are investing £5 billion in bus and cycle links.
“The extra funding will improve people’s everyday journeys, making them quicker and easier.”
Responding to the Prime Minister's announcement, Darren Shirley, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: "This is a significant step change from the Government and welcome news for communities up and down the country who have borne the brunt of poor or non-existent local public transport in recent years.
“Appropriately allocated, this funding should help to improve air quality and drive down carbon emissions by supporting the transition to zero emission vehicles; reduce fares and speed up journey times; and restore lost services and routes that have left many communities disconnected.
"Taking forward dozens of new 'Mini-Holland' schemes and further investment in cycling will transform the road space and should lead to lower pollution, bringing health benefits to our towns and cities."
PM urged to go further
Greener Journeys has welcomed the announcement, but has urged the PM to go further.
Claire Haigh, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys, said: “Today’s announcement demonstrates that we have a Prime Minister genuinely committed to buses. Bus investment supports jobs and UK manufacturing and delivers genuinely inclusive and sustainable growth. A 10% improvement in bus service connectivity is associated with a 3.6% reduction in social deprivation. But if we need to go much further if we are to tackle the climate crisis. A double decker bus can take 75 cars off the road.
“Instead of building new roads we must better use of our existing road network through demand management measures such as the work-place parking levy and road pricing schemes. Fuel duty must be increased in next month’s Budget.
“The freeze since 2011 has caused there to be 4% more increase in traffic, 4.5 million tonnes of CO2, 200 million fewer bus journeys and 60 million fewer rail journeys. The money raised from increasing fuel duty should be ring fenced to accelerate the switch to electric vehicles and to encourage greater use of public transport.”