05:17PM, Thursday 07 April 2022
Slough Borough Council (SBC) has expressed its disappointment after missing out on millions of pounds worth of Government cash to improve bus travel in the borough.
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.
SBC hoped it would be eligible for a slice of the Government’s £3billion funding pot, which was dished out to councils on Monday.
But the authority - along with neighbouring Windsor and Maidenhead and Buckinghamshire – were not included on the list of cash recipients.
Nearby unitary authority Reading received £26million from the Government scheme.
SBC is running a tight financial ship and its new budget, passed last month, relies heavily on external funding and support from Government.
It also recently approved plans for a permanent bus lane to be implemented along the A4 in the town.
A Slough Council spokeswoman said: “The Slough BSIP contains a comprehensive programme of measures designed to improve bus services within the borough.
"This programme comprises highway improvements, notably bus priority schemes, as well as fare reductions and simplifications, multi-operator ticketing, better service information and a raft of related measures.
"This is an ambitious programme, which we have estimated would cost an approximate total of £54million to deliver all the measures proposed. All of the proposed measures in the BSIP are subject to feasibility, funding, and consultation outcomes.
"In light of the council’s financial circumstances, and the lingering effects of COVID-19 on bus passenger numbers, the successful delivery of the BSIP relies on external funding.
“We are therefore disappointed that Slough has not been included in the first round of funding contributions.
"Only 31 Local Transport Authorities out of 70 have received funding for their BSIPs by the DfT.
“Although Slough has been unsuccessful in this funding round, the Government has stated that more BSIP funds may become available in due course.”
SBC added that it was still 'committed' to taking its BSIP forward.
It said: "The next stage is the formal establishment of the Enhanced Partnership, with a forum and governing body due to meet regularly in order to govern and administer the delivery of the BSIP.
"The DfT has also indicated that possible alternative Government funding opportunities, including the Levelling Up fund, may be applicable for BSIP purposes.
"In the meantime, the council will continue to engage with the operators to improve services as far as practically possible.
"An essential element of the partnership will be ongoing frequent and thorough communication, in a coordinated and cooperative approach.
"A cabinet report is currently being prepared for consideration in June."
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 and would be seeking further guidance from the Government.
The DfT said that areas 'not showing sufficient ambition' would not be funded.
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