The UK is spending £ three billion to utterly overhaul its bus system

This article was originally published by Christopher Carey on Cities today, the leading news platform for urban mobility and innovation reaching an international audience of city guides. For the latest updates, see Cities Today Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Youtubeor sign up for Cities Today News.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced plans Invest £ 3 billion (US $ 4.18 billion) in bus services across England, including the launch of 4,000 new UK-built electric or hydrogen buses.

As part of the investment, the government has pledged to introduce hundreds of kilometers of new bus lanes, offer more weekend and evening services, and introduce contactless payments for all buses.

Price caps for tickets and more frequent connections are also promised in what the Ministry of Transport (DfT) calls “the most ambitious restructuring of the bus sector in generations”.

“Show up and go” services

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps commented on the announcement: “Buses are the most popular way of getting around this country. They help us get to school, family doctor or shops – but the services across England are patchy and frankly not good enough.

“The quality of the bus connections you get shouldn’t depend on where you live. Everyone deserves access to cheap, reliable, and fast bus travel.

“The strategy we are envisioning today will completely revamp the services and ensure that we recover better from the pandemic. The key to this is the new deal it is offering to the councils – we will provide unprecedented resources, but we need councils that work closely with the operators and the government to develop the services of the future. “

The DfT said it expects local authorities and operators to work together to provide bus connections so frequently that passengers can simply “show up and go” – without having to rely on a traditional timetable or wait longer than a few minutes .

Laura Shoaf, Chair of Urban Transport Group and General Manager of Transportation in West Midlands (TfWM), welcomed the announcement, saying the strategy has a “positive and ambitious” vision for the future.

“Before the pandemic, bus use and networks were declining and tariffs were rising, so the additional funding pledged by the government is welcome,” Shoaf said.

“Without a better bus connection, there can be no environmentally friendly and equitable recovery from the pandemic, so the bus continues to consume a larger share of total transportation spending and that funding can be sustained over the long term,” she added.


However, the plan was criticized by the unions and the opposition Labor Party, who pointed to falling passenger numbers and earlier cuts in services.

“This so-called strategy does nothing for those looking for a bold vision to reverse the millions of kilometers of bus routes lost across the country,” said Labour’s shadow bus minister Sam Tarry.

“People will wonder when they will return to work, whether there are enough affordable and regular buses for their daily commute.”

“The government needs to do more to protect this vital sector – not least because more than 1,000 jobs have been lost in the bus industry alone since the pandemic began,” added Tarry.


Outside London, England’s city buses are operated by various private companies, with several companies operating in some cities.

This means that passengers often have to pay multiple tariffs if they have to switch buses during a trip.

As part of the Transport for London (TfL) network, users pay a flat fee of £ 1.50 which covers all bus journeys within an hour. This means that passengers can change trains several times without incurring additional fees.

Some cities, including Manchester, have pioneered the idea of ​​rolling out bus franchising across the metropolitan area, which would do away with the current privately run system.

A consultation led by Ipsos Mori on the plans between December 2020 and January This year we received more than 12,500 responses, 82%. According to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, these support a franchise model.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham will consider moving ahead with the franchise plan in the coming weeks. If approved, the model could be rolled out in three phases, with a sub-area of ​​the metropolitan area being rolled out between 2023 and 2025 each year.

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Published on March 31, 2021 – 14:00 UTC

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