Projects to improve bus services in rural areas of the South West are set to benefit from £2.5 million, Transport Minister Baroness Vere announced today Tuesday 16th March, as the Government unveils the most ambitious shake-up of the bus sector in a generation.
The investment is part of a £20 million fund to support innovative on-demand services, such as minibuses that can be booked via an app, which are able to get closer to where people live in rural and suburban areas, and at a time convenient for them.
The allocations from the Rural Mobility Fund come as the UK Government launches its new National Bus Strategy, backed by £3 billion of investment, which will see passengers across England benefiting from more frequent, more reliable, easier to use and understand, better coordinated and cheaper bus services.
The changes include:
– Simpler bus fares with daily price caps, so people can use the bus as many times a day as they need without facing mounting costs
– more services in the evenings and at the weekends
integrated services and ticketing across all transport modes, so people can easily move from bus to train
– all buses to accept contactless payments
The funding being allocated today will enable local authorities to trial innovative projects in rural and suburban areas, where traditional timetabled services often aren’t practical.
Gloucestershire County Council will receive £1,352,000 to purchase four fully accessible minibuses with low-step entrances for the North-East Cotswold and South Forest of Dean areas. This would significantly improve accessibility for rurally isolated people by providing transport for communities that currently have little or no public transport. The service, which would run 7am-7pm five days per week, has the potential to improve links to work, health and education services, and shops – while also connecting people to local interchange hubs where they can access conventional, scheduled bus services.
Meanwhile Wiltshire Council will receive £1,200,000 to enhance its existing demand-responsive bus service, focussing on helping people get to work – with services specifically designed to connect with trains either side of the working day. A new regular service from Marborough through to Devizes would support people living in the surrounding rural communities who have little access to traditional, scheduled bus services.
Transport Minister, Baroness Vere, said: “Buses are the life-blood of our communities. They get us to work, to school and to see friends and family. Put simply, they help us make the little everyday journeys that make up our lives.
“In places where people are more dispersed, and the distance they need to travel is longer, it can be harder for traditional, timetabled bus services to truly meet their needs.
“The funding we are announcing today will give local authorities the opportunity to trial services that work better for communities – such as wheelchair-accessible minibuses that can be booked on an app on request. The schemes will help people who’ve had limited transport links for too long get to where they need to be.”
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