01 October 2019

Dare we dream of Superbus Networks?

One of number of recent announcements made by the current government (if you can still call it that) is of interest to those that follow the passenger transport industry:
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has announced today (30 September) plans for ‘Superbus’ networks in Britain.
The cutting-edge plans will see bus fares fall and service frequency rise with new all-electric buses. The government package, worth £220m in the first year, includes better passenger information and contactless payment available on all city buses.
The West Midlands and elsewhere will feel the benefit of ‘express lanes’ and more frequent services in rural areas where bus service numbers have fallen in recent years.
Apps are being developed that can be used to keep passengers in the loop regarding bus routes, fares, timetables from all different operators across England all in one convenient place.
Part of the announcement is the committal to the UK’s first-ever long-term bus strategy, included in this is support for local authorities who want to create franchised services in their areas. 
Cornwall will be the first county to feel the Superbus benefits, where pilot projects will go ahead from next year to improve quality, frequency and capacity of rail and bus services, with an integrated transport system for the region.
A disproportionate number of people on lower incomes uses buses over any other form of transport.
Cornwall was chosen as a county with significant deprivation and social exclusion, with people who struggle with the cost and unreliability to get to work. The new scheme hopes to connect people with jobs, education and social opportunities.
The Superbus networks will continue to pop up throughout the country, with priority given to similar places that suffer from under-achieving public transport.
With city buses switching to wireless electric vehicles and country buses becoming hybrids, pollution and operating costs will be dramatically reduced.
This is something many local councils are keen to tackle because of climate change targets they need to reach after many declaring a ‘climate emergency’.
The long-term funding package will be outlined in the 2020 spending review. It is set to show plans to support local authorities wanting to pursue London-style bus systems in their regions. 
Greater Manchester is in the most advanced stage of this proposal, and are due to consider adopting a proposed franchised model in 2020.
Is there an election coming up? Call me a cynic but I find it hard to get too excited at anything being announced by the government at the moment as there are an awful lot of big announcements which very quickly get followed by disappointments when you realise just how vague they are. I sincerely hope that this is indeed the start of something new but the £220million quoted above wont go very far at all unless its followed by some serious money pretty quickly.
Just like in Plymouth where we were told of a new £600 million to rebuild Derriford Hospital which very quickly became a vague promise of £100 million across the whole country with hopeful promises of more to follow eventually…
Having said all of that though, the promised scheme in Cornwall does at least seem more likely to happen at the moment…

Passengers boarding at the bus station in Truro
Public transport in Cornwall has received a significant boost with the Chancellor’s promise of a £23.5m funding package over the next four years for a “Reduced Bus Fares” pilot.
Due to begin in May 2020, Cornwall is the first rural area to be given the opportunity to run and fund a pilot scheme to bring down the cost of travelling by bus.
Cornwall Council Cabinet member for transport Geoff Brown said: “One of the issues for our residents is the cost of using buses to get around. So we put forward a case to the Department for Transport to help us encourage people to use the buses by reducing bus fares.

“If more people use the buses then the plan is that over the four years of the pilot project, the lower cost of fares becomes financially sustainable. More journeys by bus means more fares being paid which means keeping fares down.”

He added: “We know that good public transport is important to our residents to connect communities for work, education and socialising. Promoting and providing affordable public transport is also important in tackling climate change and getting cars off the road.
“That’s why improving public transport in Cornwall is a priority for this council. We’ve already seen public transport passenger numbers in the South West growing faster than anywhere else in the UK. Last year, 19.2 million journeys were made on public transport in Cornwall.”
Sarah Newton, MP for Truro and Falmouth, supported the bid to the Department for Transport.
She said:  “This investment will help existing bus service users and will enable more people to afford to access education, employment and social activities. It encourages more people to switch to public transport.
“We have new, low-emission buses and, with this government subsidy, lower fares, so I hope many more people will use them. Switching from cars saves money, helps tackle climate change and improves the air quality of our natural environment.”
Cornwall Council signed a Devolution Deal with Government in 2015 aimed at delivering a cost-effective customer-focused integrated public transport system. It said the resulting One Public Transport System for Cornwall project is delivering upon its objectives to improve public transport.
A spokesman said: "It has seen the introduction of new buses, improved roadside shelters, bus and rail station infrastructure and digital timetable information. It’s also the first rural authority to introduce contactless payments on buses.
"Encouraging more residents to use public transport rather than using the car supports the council’s determination to tackle the Climate Change Emergency by helping to reduce emission levels."
Councillor Brown added: “There are more people using buses but we want to encourage even more. One of the barriers is high bus fares, particularly for short journeys. You need only look at the significant increase in travel since the Concessionary Bus Pass Scheme was introduced to see that people will use public transport if the price is right.
“The Truro park and ride is another example where offering a high-quality service with good value for money fares can attract people to public transport. Last year we had 1.2m passenger journeys on the Park and Ride, taking 1,500 cars per day from the city’s roads.”
The pilot will run for four years from May 2020.

Cornwall does seem to be the place to watch at the moment. They do seem keen to work with the operators rather than like some northern areas which seem determined to wrestle control from the operators by force.  This should result in a much better service across the whole county.
We should also soon by hearing the results of the last batch of tenders put out earlier this year – I know Citybus were keen to take on more Cornish work!
Cornwall has of course seen some big improvements over the last few years – even five years ago if anyone told you there would be brand new double decker's operating in Cornwall you would have laughed!

What do people think? Is this the start of something big or am I right to be a cynic? 

First South West WK66BZA
© Tom Carter


  1. False promises I think. Shame because Electric buses are definitely needed in Cities!

  2. Apart from the "promise" of low fares it's only regurgitating what Cornwall Council are planning to do from next April anyway, with funding that's been in place for a while now. Nonetheless welcome of course!

  3. Low fares? Yeah, right. Some way to go there! I've not visited Cornwall for a while, been put off by the stratospheric cost of a day ticket. Plenty of other places to go instead and only pay £7/£8.

    1. Agreed. Yet the seven day ticket is only twice the day ticket! The carnets are good value, though, if you're a semi-regular traveller. The town zone versions can be extraordinarily good value - often cheaper than parking.

  4. If many of the extra people who use the buses due to this 'initiative' are pensioners, then the costs for the rest of us, either as fare-payers or tax payers, will rise rather than fall, if the problems of funding concessionary fares are not addressed.


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