Ambitious bus improvement plans unveiled for Bedford Borough

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Britain’s biggest bus operator is partnering with our region’s local transport authorities to develop ambitious plans to get more passengers to swap their cars for greener public transport.

Local councillors have welcomed the Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs), describing them as ‘long overdue’, but say for bus services to be successful, they must be accessible and affordable for all.

Stagecoach has worked with Bedford Borough Council to develop their ambitious plans, following months of discussions between local authorities, bus operators and consultation with the public to ensure the plans reflect the needs of local communities.

The plans, which had to be submitted to the Department for Transport by 31 October, include initiatives to lower fares, speed up bus journeys, boost accessibility and connections in city centres and rural areas, and improve customer information.

Objectives include:

  • Be an attractive mode of travel that competes with the car
  • Support sustainable growth
  • Help to protect and enhance the environment
  • Support the health and well-being of the region
  • Provide opportunity for all

Stagecoach has urged the government to focus funding on plans that will make a practical difference to the costs and reliability of bus travel and attract people back to public transport after the damaging impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The recent Autumn Budget and Spending Review confirmed that more than £3billion of new funding will be available for buses over the current Parliament.

Funding for local authorities

Stagecoach has also called on the UK Government to ensure that smaller local authorities outside of England’s big city regions do not fall victim to a “postcode lottery” of funding for their ambitious bus improvement plans.

A Borough Council spokesperson said: “Bedford’s Bus Strategy has been developed through collaboration with our bus operators, key stakeholders and passengers.

“We are looking to improve the bus offer locally and deliver benefits including access to local jobs, access to health services, and have a positive impact on our carbon emissions by encouraging more people to use public transport.

“As a partnership, we are adopting a customer-focused approach working to make our bus system easier to understand and use. We’ve taken our first step with the re-launch of the Cygnet bus pass across all largest bus operators locally.”

Welcome and long overdue

Green councillors were cautiously optimistic about the news, which they described as ‘welcome and long overdue’.

“The proof will be in the pudding,” said Cllr Lucy Bywater, Green party councillor for Castle Ward.

“For too long bus passengers outside London and metropolitan areas have basically been second class citizens, with expensive and unreliable services which have also done nothing to attract motorists away from travelling by car.”

She said that if Bedford Borough is going to play its part in decarbonising transport and improving local air quality, then a genuinely affordable, good quality local bus service is absolutely essential.

“We’ve got to make the environmentally sustainable travel options more attractive and affordable for everyone or most people will continue to rely on the car”.

Figures published by the Confederation of Passenger Transport show that UK citizens switching just one journey a month from car to bus would deliver a cut of 2m tonnes in annual carbon emissions.

“Bus networks are key to Britain’s towns and cities and supporting the country’s net zero ambitions,” said Darren Roe, managing director for Stagecoach East.

“The quickest way to help leverage the power of buses to support this is by getting motorists out of cars and onto buses which would drive huge reductions in carbon emissions.”

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