Royal Borough ‘disappointed’ after missing out on Government bus money


The Royal Borough says it is ‘disappointed’ after missing out on millions of pounds worth of Government cash to improve bus travel in Maidenhead and Windsor.

A national bus strategy – Bus Back Better – was launched by the Government last year with the aim of improving this mode of transport outside of London.

Local authorities across the UK were tasked with submitting a document called a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) to the Department for Transport (DfT) which set out the vision for bus travel in their areas.

The creation of a new bus station in Maidenhead was one of the options being considered by the Royal Borough to increase public transport use in the town as it submitted its BSIP back in October.

It hoped that it would be eligible for a slice of the Government’s £3billion funding pot, which was dished out to councils on Monday.

But the Royal Borough – along with neighbouring authorities Slough and Buckinghamshire – were not included on the list of cash recipients.

A Windsor and Maidenhead cabinet meeting was informed in October that the local authority had one of the lowest rates of bus use in the country, with day tickets costing an average of £5.30.

Nearby unitary authority Reading received £26million from the Government scheme, while West Berkshire got £2.6million.

Councillor Phil Haseler, the Royal Borough’s cabinet member for transport, said: “We’re disappointed not to have been awarded any funding from the DfT to take forward plans for buses in our area.

“This was a competitive process and we’re among many areas across England to have missed out this time.

“The DfT’s funding focusses on levelling up bus services outside of London, and unfortunately the Royal Borough falls within the lowest priority category in the Levelling Up Fund priority index.

“Within our BSIP, we responded ambitiously and positively to Government, aiming to achieve significant improvements to bus services.

“The process was driven by the DfT and was therefore broadly reliant on funding from the department.

“We will be engaging with the DfT to understand further details of its decision and will continue to work closely with operators to look at how services could be improved.”

Cllr Haseler added that despite the Government’s decision, the council was still able to ‘progress some elements’ of its BSIP using available funds, including a review of its bus network.

“We will also look to progress the investment in technology to improve our bus data and improvements to on-board services such as Wi-Fi and charging.

“We will also continue to explore the range of potential funding sources to take forward more of the proposals within the BSIP, such as developer contributions and any future Government funding opportunities that arise.”

Cllr Haseler said that another of the council’s active travel documents – the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) – would be adopted ‘as soon as possible’.

He added this would create a ‘roadmap of schemes for further investigation’ and will be going to public consultation soon, with £1.5million of council funding available this year to take schemes forward.

Buckinghamshire Council’s cabinet member for transport, Cllr Steven Broadbent, added that the authority was also ‘incredibly disappointed’ not to receive any bus travel funding.

"Our plan was ambitious and contained nearly 50 schemes to improve bus services for our residents – covering all of the areas the DfT asked us to focus on.

"Our BSIP included plans for greener buses, more frequent services, lower fares, improved technology and travel information, all of which totalled over £50million.

“We’ll be seeking further feedback from the DfT on exactly why our bid was unsuccessful and suspect part of the reason is simply that the fund was vastly oversubscribed, and we note many other local authorities are in the same position as Buckinghamshire. 

“We are of course committed to continuing to work with our bus operators, local residents and communities to support and improve our vital bus services that provide residents access to employment and other facilities.

"We are also working hard to make it easier for residents to walk or cycle for short local journeys, as part of our recently adopted Buckinghamshire Strategic Vision.”

The DfT said: “The successful areas have been chosen because of their ambition to repeat the success achieved in London - which drove up bus usage and made the bus a natural choice for everyone. Areas not showing sufficient ambition would not be funded.”

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