A big-city-style bus service where many people could rely on waiting only a few minutes for their bus to arrive, before paying with their phone, could be on the way to Lancashire thanks to an ambitious £165m funding bid.
The new Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) developed by Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council, and bus operators, outlines how buses could be made the transport mode of choice for many more people under the government’s Bus Back Better strategy, which has set aside £3bn to transform services across the country.
The plan paints a picture of how public transport could be revolutionised with buses able to pass traffic queued at junctions thanks to investment in bus priority measures, making bus travel a quick and convenient option.
The document recently submitted to the Department for Transport is Lancashire’s response to the government’s call for councils to be ambitious in creating a vision for what could be achieved with a huge increase in funding.
Lancashire’s BSIP describes how an injection of £165m could be used to create a network of ‘Superbuses’ with frequent services throughout the week and weekends, offering passengers significantly improved journey times thanks to investment in highways such as bus lanes and ‘bus priority’ measures on traffic lights at junctions.
It also outlines how more funding would also allow the development of more consistent and accessible timetable information, making it easier for people to catch their local bus.
Another priority would be for all bus operators to adopt a London-style single shared ticketing system to make travel simpler, and to introduce a standard half-fare ticket for 16 to 19-year-olds.
The plan also sets out that the initial challenge facing bus operators is to restore passenger numbers to pre-Covid levels.
County Councillor Charlie Edwards, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “Our £165m vision to transform Lancashire’s bus network aims to completely change the way people view and use buses, and make them a much bigger part of the solution to congestion and the need to achieve net zero carbon.
“The government has set aside £3bn for the Bus Back Better programme over the current parliament and asked us to be ambitious in showing what we could do with much more funding. Our plan paints a really exciting picture of what could be achieved.
“This level of investment could make catching the bus a more attractive option for everyone, including car owners, for their regular travel in order to reduce congestion, better look after our environment, and improve our health and wellbeing.
“Our Bus Service Improvement Plan has been developed in partnership with Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and local bus operators across Lancashire, and sets out our shared ambition to improve the bus network over the coming years.
“The new approach to partnership working under Bus Back Better means we are already working more closely than ever with operators and neighbouring councils which leaves us really well positioned to deliver improvements in future, and make the most of any extra funding we receive.”
Blackburn with Darwen’s Executive Member for Growth and Development Cllr Phil Riley said: “This is a good plan for Blackburn with Darwen working in partnership with Lancashire County Council. The key theme running through our plan is people. The plan must ensure that the services being provided meet local needs, so we will continue to engage with user groups, and together will establish a Lancashire Passengers Charter.
“This BSIP will be designed to be flexible to changes and demands, but with the right investment to deliver these changes will go towards making Lancashire a great place to live, work, visit and prosper.”
To see the plan for yourself, search ‘Bus Service Improvement Plan’ at lancashire.gov.uk.