UK government allocates £150 million for bus service improvements in Midlands and North England
The UK government’s £150 million funding boost for bus services in the Midlands and North of England is a key element of the Network North Plan, which aims to enhance accessibility and affordability by re-purposing HS2 funding.
Credit: Department for Transport
The UK government has unveiled a plan to inject £150 million into improving bus services across the Midlands and North of England for the upcoming financial year.
The funding, which is part of the broader Network North Plan, is the first instalment of a £1 billion commitment dedicated to enhancing bus services across the North and Midlands. This marks a major step towards improving public transportation and ensuring greater accessibility and affordability for millions of people residing in these regions.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in his statement, said: “We’re backing buses with one of the biggest ever support packages and keeping bus fares down to ensure the country’s favourite means of transport is more affordable for millions of people. This government is taking the right long-term decisions to deliver on our vision for a fairer and improved transport system by investing billions back into to the transport projects that matter most to people and their communities.”
Under the Network North Plan, local authorities in collaboration with bus operators will have the autonomy to determine the most effective way to allocate these funds. The £150 million funding for the upcoming year is expected to support up to 25 million miles of new bus services, which will lead to more frequent and reliable services, as well as potentially cheaper fares through fare initiatives and ticket price caps.
The re-allocation of funds from the High-Speed 2 (HS2) project to Network North ensures the realisation of the government’s ambitious £36 billion plan to enhance transportation in a way that benefits more people across a wider geographical area in a shorter timeframe.
The £150 million in re-directed HS2 funding is targeted at levelling up bus services, with the goal of making services more frequent, reliable, affordable and user-friendly. Local authorities can use the additional funding to re-introduce evening services to support the night-time economy, increase service frequency, establish new routes, or introduce Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) services to improve connectivity in rural areas.
Furthermore, the “Get Around For £2” bus fare cap scheme, which has already led to reduced bus fares across England outside of London, will be extended. The cap, originally planned to rise to £2.50, will now remain at £2 and continue until 31 December 2024.
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 re-directed HS2 funding secured by this government making the right long-term decisions for a brighter future.”
Since the introduction of the £2 bus fare cap in January 2023, millions of passengers have experienced lower fares. This initiative has led to a 7.4% reduction in bus fares in England outside London between June 2022 and June 2023, with even more substantial savings in rural areas where fares have dropped by nearly 11%.
An analysis conducted by the Department for Transport (DfT) suggests that the fare cap has encouraged people to use buses more frequently, with almost half of respondents stating that the cap is the main reason they have increased their bus usage.
In addition to the investment in bus services, the government is also boosting funding for community services catering to older people and vulnerable passengers by 60%. These vital services, often referred to as “lifesavers,” enable older and vulnerable individuals to access essential services, medical appointments, as well as visit loved ones.