Government refusal to fund improvements to bus services branded ‘a disgrace’ by transport head

Tuesday 12th April 2022 7:00 am
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The Government’s refusal to fund improvements to Herefordshire’s bus services has been branded “a disgrace” by the county’s transport head.

After the Government launched its post-pandemic Bus Back Better strategy a year ago, Herefordshire Council sought funding of £18,130,000 over three years for its Bus Service Improvement Plan, which promised to “create an exemplar for rural bus services”.

But it has now been told its bid has been unsuccessful.

According to a Department for Transport spokesperson: “The successful areas have been chosen because of their ambition to repeat the success achieved in London – which drove up bus usage and made the bus a natural choice for everyone, not just those without cars.

“As the Government stated in its national bus strategy,  areas not showing sufficient ambition, including for improvements to bus priority, would not be funded.”

Launching the strategy last year, transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “The quality of bus service you receive shouldn’t be dependent on where you live. Everyone deserves to have access to cheap, reliable and quick bus journeys.

“Key to the strategy is the new deal it offers to councils – we will provide unprecedented funding.”

Shapps’ rhetoric “is contradicted by his actions”, the council’s head of transport and infrastructure Cllr John Harrington said.

“When the total funding for this was cut back in January, I feared the government would stuff us again, and they have.

“How seriously can we now take Government pledges on decarbonisation? It’s a disgrace.”

He said the county’s improvement plan had been “well thought-out, put together in agreement with the bus operators, and submitted in good time”.

The £18 million “would have done a huge amount – now we will have to consider how to support our plans out of our own taxation”, he added.

He noted that England’s regional combined mayoral authorities, “which can re-regulate, that is, take back control of their bus services” generally had their funding bids approved – “whereas authorities like ours didn’t, and are left to our own devices”.

“We are now considering asking the Government to allow us also to re-regulate our service, and give the contracts,” he said.

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