In normal times more journeys are made on buses than on any other form of public transport – over 4.36bn journeys. Buses are a lifeline for rural communities, and a well integrated bus service is crucial to the economic prosperity and social wellbeing of our towns.
Sadly the pandemic has hit bus services hard, and loss-making routes are all the more difficult to maintain. Although the Government financial support has been helpful, cash-strapped local authorities are still picking up the pieces trying to fund improvements as well as keep services running, and local people risk losing out.
- We have lost 134 million miles of bus routes since 2010
- Bus coverage in Britain is now the lowest it’s been in 30 years
- Bus fares have risen by 70% over the last 11 years
- Bus fares have risen by higher than average outside of cities
- By 2024 there will be 26% fewer elderly and disabled passengers in England since 2010
- 50% households on low incomes and two-thirds of job seekers have no access to a car
- Over 1,000 jobs lost in the bus and coach manufacturing industry alone since the pandemic started
- The Prime Minister promised 4,000 new “zero-emission” buses in February 2020, but their Spending Review later reduced the number to just 800, and there was no mention of this pledge in the Budget.
- In October 2019 the Department for Transport announced £2m in funding to help up to 30 small operators; however, its roll-out has now been delayed to the 2021/22 financial year.
- Transport Focus has warned that “for many people living in the countryside, especially those who do not own a car, bus services are seen as a lifeline. Many of these services are under threat as local authorities’ budgets are squeezed.”
What I’m doing
I have been working closely with providers including Stagecoach and Blackpool Transport to increase the accessibility and offer of the local public transport in the area where it is commercially viable, as the sector slowly begins to return to pre-Covid levels.
Knott End and Preesall
Following the huge success of getting the 2C Sunday bus service back to Knott End in 2019, I have continued working with Blackpool Transport to keep this, despite the challenging Covid-19 circumstances which has seen the route change to Saturday service levels in order to save costs.
Stagecoach have suggested that if passenger numbers indicate a demand for it, they may be able to make changes to the 40/41 service to serve Forton directly. Amidst the pandemic and with fewer passengers, sadly this is not something they can consider at the moment, but I will continue to consult with residents to make a persuasive case to emphasise the demand.
The 80/81 service from Lancaster to Ingleton / Kirkby Lonsdale is currently run by 2 operators, Stagecoach and Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire. Constituents have been in touch to raise concerns about the lack of services after 6.30pm on Sundays. When the Government finally bring out plans for the National Bus Strategy, I will be asking Lancashire County Council about extra funding for the weekend/evening service.
The 18 service funded by Lancashire County Council is still operational, however with dwindling numbers over the Covid-19 pandemic, people need to use it or lose it.
A significant amount of housing recently built along New Quay Road is not served by bus, leaving some residents isolated. I have supported Lancaster District Bus Users’ Group in campaigning for a route to serve this area, and I have encouraged Lancashire County Council to consider supporting such a route with any available grants from national government.
With the proposed Bailrigg Garden Village development advancing, I am keen to ensure that public transport is a key consideration, and I am pleased that Stagecoach have indicated the same wish to work alongside Lancaster City Council on this aspect of the development.
Bus services to the University will continue on a non-University schedule for the time being, and Stagecoach are planning extra evening services to support Lancaster’s night time economy as Covid-19 restrictions allow.
Labour would look to offer a genuinely ambitious alternative, including overhauling access to public buses in rural areas with an “every village, every hour” approach to support those communities who need better access to healthcare, education, and jobs.
Want support or more information?
If you have any concerns of queries about your local bus services, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com
I will continue to support constituents on an individual basis where they are experiencing bus service issues, but I am also closely monitoring community demands and trends for local bus services that work for them.
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