Bus users in St Helens are benefitting from £1.5m investment in improving bus travel thanks to the work of the Liverpool City Region Better Bus Area project (BBA).
The BBA is a positive collaboration between Merseytravel, St Helens Knowsley and Halton Borough Councils and bus operators Arriva, Stagecoach, Halton Transport and Huyton Travel.
Together they have been responsible for coordinating and delivering a total of £3.5 million bus infrastructure improvements in St Helens, Knowsley and Halton during the past four years (2013/14 to 2017/18).
Relieving congestion, improving connectivity and improving infrastructure are the BBA’s core aims. The BBA members identify and then allocate funds and resources to improvement schemes, which can include upgrading traffic signals, bus stops or road junctions that will contribute towards achieving those aims.
Improving road junctions or traffic signals can for example aid the smooth flow of buses through the junctions, have a positive impact on journey time and contribute towards reducing congestion.
Improvement works which have now been completed in St Helens include:
· Widening of junction and upgrade of traffic signals at A57 Warrington Road and Holt Lane Junction
· Widening of junction and upgrade of traffic signals at A57 Warrington Road/B5419 Wilmere Lane/ Jubits Lane Junction
· Upgrade of adjacent traffic signals at Lea Green Railway Station at the adjacent junction with the A569 Marshall’s Cross Road
· Additional pedestrian crossing at the north entrance on Corporation Street into St Helens Bus Station
· Bus priority measures to help reduce delays to buses and upgrading of traffic signals at the A58 Prescot Road/Freckleton Road junction and the adjacent junction with Lugsmore Lane
Improvement works which are still to be completed in St Helens include:
· Widening of junction and upgrade of traffic signals at A57 Warrington Road/Longton Lane/Old Lane junction
· Upgrade of traffic signals and bus priority measure at A58 Prescot Road/Dunriding Lane junction
· Upgrading of traffic signals at the south exit of the St Helens Bus Station onto Bickerstaffe Street and at the adjacent junction at Library Street.
· Upgrade of existing traffic signals at the A570 Chalon Way/Bridge Street/Canal Street junction and also in Westfield Street
· Upgrade of existing traffic signals at the Westfield Street/Cotham Street/Baldwin Street junction
St Helens has and will continue to benefit as a result of the Better Bus Area programme, in which a number of junctions that were causing delays in bus journey times have been upgraded.
One such junction is the A57 Warrington Road/B5419/Jubits Lane junction, where carriageway widening works have enabled buses travelling along Warrington Road to now pass vehicles queuing to turn right into Wilmere Lane.
This is now reducing these delays, whilst improving bus journey times, as well as improving the operational efficiency of the upgraded traffic signals and providing improved pedestrian crossing facilities, thus increasing road safety.
The BBA scheme is coming to an end this year and a final progress report will be submitted to the Department for Transport in September. The report provides an on-going record of how the project has been delivered and forms the basis for any subsequent analysis of delivery as required. It can also be shared as best practice within the industry.
The National Bus Passenger Satisfaction Survey (BPS), which included bus passengers within the BBA led by Transport Focus took place between September and December 2016. Merseytravel on behalf of the BBA compared the results of the 2016 survey with baseline data collected in 2014.
The key highlights of the survey include:
· 90% per cent of passengers show satisfaction with their overall journey compared with 87 per cent in 2014
· Customers are more satisfied with punctuality which has significantly increased by 7 per cent to 77 per cent
· Satisfaction with value for money has also seen a sharp increase of 6 per cent to a total of 71 per cent overall
· There has been an increase in satisfaction with the reliability of services in the Better Bus Area which is up 5 per cent to 74 per cent
Cllr Liam Robinson, chair of The Combined Authority Transport Committee, which oversees the work of Merseytravel said: “The BBA is very much a pre-cursor to the Liverpool City Region Bus Alliance and was highlighted by the Department for Transport (DfT) as a strong example of best practice for partnership working.
“In addition to the obvious improvements to bus flows there are added benefits for residents which align with the Bus Alliance ambitions of getting more people on the bus and helping to broaden people’s horizons by providing better access to employment, education and training opportunities.
“We want to build on the successful foundations cemented by the Bus Alliance and Better Bus Area and utilise the new devolved powers in the Bus Services Act to be able to take this to the next level and deliver even more customer focussed improvements and benefits.”
St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Growth with responsibility for transport, Councillor John Fulham, said:
“I very much welcome this injection of external funding into public transport which a large number of St Helens residents depend on to go about their daily business.
“Together with great offers including the MyTicket for youngsters and the ‘all area’ Solo bus tickets, achieved under the Bus Alliance, these developments make travelling by bus a better option for the public.
“The City Region’s commitment in investing in these types of improvements can only be a positive thing in the long run as it will reduce congestion and decrease journey times which I hope will encourage more and more people to come to realise how reliable this form of transport can be.”
Howard Farrall, Managing Director, Arriva Merseyside said: “We are delighted that our work with the Better Bus Area has had such a positive impact on the punctuality and reliability of services. In turn, Arriva hopes that this encouraging feedback will encourage more people to choose to travel by bus, while also helping to further reduce congestion and air pollution.”
Colin Stafford Managing Director for Halton Transport said: “We have been a partner of BBA since the scheme started we have worked very hard with the BBA board to identify and implement major road improvements, real time information screens at bus stops along with a Quality partnership route on the 17 service Widnes to St Helens all of which has seen great improvements to both reliability and customer satisfaction which has seen a growth in patronage.”
Rob Jones, Managing Director at Stagecoach Merseyside, Chester and South Lancashire said: “As bus operators we strive to provide our passengers with reliable bus services. With more vehicles on the road than ever before, congestion at pinchpoints across the network can cause delays.
“Through this proactive partnership approach to tackle congestion we have made some really effective strides forward in improving the flow of traffic at key hotspots, thereby enhancing service reliability and, crucially, helping to reduce pollution across the city region.”
For more information about the BBA scheme is available on the Merseytravel website www.merseytravel.gov.uk/betterbusarea