£14 million to improve Devon’s bus service
Devon is to receive £14 million towards bus improvements – less than half the amount the county council originally bid for.
A £34 million bus improvement plan, described as ‘ambitious,’ was submitted at the end of October which aimed to make buses cheaper to use, greener, more frequent, and more reliable.
Developed in partnership with Devon’s bus companies, the plan included regional zone tickets to simplify fares in collaboration with neighbouring councils and to bring in ‘young person’ tickets for 16 to 18 -year-olds, an age group most heavily reliant on buses.
However, the £3 billion of government funding available for the ‘bus back better’ programme was then slashed by more than half, with the long-awaited grants being announced by the Department for Transport this week.
While the county council got less than it asked for, Plymouth and Torbay’s bids were snubbed altogether, despite neighbouring Cornwall being chosen as a pilot area with fares to be ‘slashed’ by as much as 40 per cent, thanks to an extra £23.5 million.
The new funding comes at a turbulent time for Devon’s bus services, which have been disrupted recently because of a shortage of drivers, leading to cancellations and reduced timetables.
Cllr Rob Hannaford, leader of the Labour group who will ask for further updates at next week’s cabinet meeting, said in response to the funding announcement: ‘It’s very good news that Devon has received this substantial funding award, particularly as last week it was rumoured that we had not been successful at all.
‘However, it is still less than half of the original bid, and Devon is a very big county, and there is a desperate need to invest in and improve our failing bus service.
‘We will now have to see how far this funding can be stretched in a strategic way across Devon, that has a real impact, which may well mean prioritising some areas of the county, over others, which could mean some hard choices.’
Councillor Julian Brazil told BBC Radio Devon: ‘We’re always happy with money, but it’s a drop in the ocean. I mean, when you say we bid for £30+ million that was for £30+ million a year, not just a one-off. It’s all very well putting on new buses, but next year they’ll have to go because we don’t have the money, so it’s by no means a solution whatsoever.’
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said of the 31 regions across the country, including Devon, that are getting the cash: ‘The investment we’re making to ramp up the bus revolution will drive down fares at a time when people’s finances are tight and help connect communities across England.’
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