05:42PM, Wednesday 17 March 2021
Upgrades to the Royal Borough’s bus services could be in the pipeline after central Government announced this week that it would invest £3billion into improving this mode of public transport.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson published a new bus strategy on Monday, which aims to make the sector cheaper, greener and more frequent.
Changes include ‘simpler bus fares’ with daily price caps, hundreds of miles of new bus lanes across the country, and a means to pay via contactless card on all buses.
The Government added that it wants local councils and bus operators to work together in partnerships to deliver improvements to the bus network in their areas.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The strategy will completely overhaul services, ensuring we build back better from the pandemic.
“Key to it is the new deal it offers to councils – we will provide unprecedented funding, but we need councils to work closely with operators, and the Government, to develop the services of the future.”
Reacting to the news, frequent bus user Peter Daniells, from Cookham, says that more basic work needs to be done to improve the bus travel experience in the Royal Borough.
This includes increasing the number of bus shelters, and providing up-to-date, accurate timetable displays.
“I think the town hall has very little interest in bus users – they are probably riding around in their 4X4s,” Mr Daniells said.
“The services need to run reliably; they need to be made attractive. There needs to be some incentive to use the buses.”
He added: “Getting people on the bus means you have got to make it less attractive for [people] to go by car. They [the Government] have either got to increase car tax or the fuel levy.”
Reacting to the investment on the Advertiser’s Facebook page, Michael Scrivens claimed that buses need to ‘run later once everything reopens’.
Also commenting, resident Janine Shepherd said: “We desperately need more bus services, but the costs are so high that they aren’t used that much.
“I used to live in West Sussex and the bus services were really frequent and reasonable.”
Councillor Gerry Clark (Con, Bisham and Cookham), the council’s lead member for transport, told the Advertiser that he is still waiting to hear all the details of the Government’s investment in buses.
“We want to do more with buses; we want to encourage bus use. Buses are a priority,” Cllr Clark said.
“Bus operators have been in a very difficult situation regarding COVID. We hope that the demand will resurge, and hopefully bus operators will thrive.
“We will seize on every opportunity we can to secure Government funding.”
On issues with bus timetables and shelters in the borough, Cllr Clark said of the former that he ‘wants residents to have that information’, but it is the responsibility of bus operators.
On shelters, the transport lead added: “I am quite sure that shelters provide benefits, but equally important is a regular and reliable [bus] service.”
In response to the news, Simon Fisher, general manager at Courtney Buses, which runs some services in Maidenhead, said: "We broadly welcome the proposals put forward by the government in this publication.
"Whilst the details have yet to be seen, we look forward to working closely with [council] officers to develop measures which will encourage greater bus travel and improve facilities for passengers and reduce pollution and congestion."
He added: "The rural nature of the borough may give rise to some challenges in producing the high frequency networks headlined in the report, but with ambition and co-operation, backed up by the promised Government funding, we hope that we can work together to attract more people to use buses as a first choice of transport."
As well as the £3billion investment in bus travel, the Department for Transport has also announced a £2.5million package to support ‘on-demand rural bus services’.
Buckinghamshire Council has been awarded £736,000 to boost transport around High Wycombe, following a reduction in traditional bus services in the area.
It will work with booking app providers to improve connectivity with surrounding villages, including Wooburn Green.
Surrey County Council was the only other local authority, along with Buckinghamshire, to receive money from this ‘Rural Mobility Fund’.
When asked why the Royal Borough did not benefit, Cllr Clark said: “That is not something I have been briefed on.
“If it were possible and we met the criteria, we would have submitted bids.”
Cabinet member for logistics at Bucks Council, Cllr David Martin, said of the funding: "Not only will this help to expand our public transport offering, it will also have a huge positive impact on residents' lives by providing more dedicated transport to shops, leisure and work places.
"If this proves to be a success, then we will be looking to expand to other areas of the county in the future.”
The candidates standing in the upcoming Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner election have outlined their priorities for policing in the region.