Bus disappointment for Somerset
Yesterday a slew of funding announcement were issued by the Department for Transport (DfT). The headline roared “Cheaper and better buses in £7 billion package to level up transport outside London“. In a rural county like Somerset, where public transport is a vital social service, this sounded like good news.
Last year Somerset County Council set out what it believed were ambitious plans. Somerset’s Bus Service Improvement Plan came with a £163m price tag and an application to the DfT for funding. The plans were submitted as a bid for a share the funding pot made available under the Government’s ‘Bus Back Better’ initiative.
Unfortunately it seems that the DfT have not listened. Somerset was not completely ignored, but an award of £11.9m is small change set against SCC’s with big plans. By comparison, the West of England Authority and North Somerset were granted £105.5m, Norfolk £49m, Kent £35m, West Sussex £17.4m and Devon £14m.
In addition to the announcement on bus funding, DfT also granted funds for integrated transport too. Once again the West of England Combined Authority seemed to be a big winner. They will receive £540m to support the creation of sustainable transport corridors across Bristol and Bath. The target being to make bus, cycling, and walking easier and more accessible for all.
Speaking exclusively to The Leveller an SCC spokesperson told us “Eleven million pounds falls well short of our aspiration to transform bus services in the county, but we have always known that it will require a sustained campaign and not just a single funding round to achieve the ambitions we outlined in the Somerset Bus Service Improvement Plan. We’ll work closely with the Department to wisely target the funding we have received and to make the case for more. It is likely that a County Deal, much more likely after the new unitary Somerset Council comes into being, will give us the next opportunity to deliver the vision for bus services that the county deserves.”
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There maybe opportunities following the Unitary Authority.
That gives Parish Councils a chance,to engage, since they will be
The sole contact between residents and the new Unitary Authority
It would really help if the County Council put more of its own resources into bus services. Other rural authorities in the South West take the issue far more seriously than Somerset does, and provide more funding as well. No wonder we have some of the lowest levels of bus usage and passenger satisfaction in the country.
£11.9 million pounds isn’t going to stretch very far, so I won’t expect to see any meaningful change any time soon.
According to the tory leaflet, it is essential to have a tory unitary authority so it can get things from the tory government. Clearly untrue, based on this news, as well as wrong in so many other ways…..
Lincolnshire has had a good rural bus service for years, and it is also very rural. https://lincsbus.info/callconnect/ is a combination of on-demand and scheduled services which go to hubs (in the market towns) to pick up services to other hubs. Somerset could learn. They won’t.