Transport leaders approve £800m bid which could fund new Alnwick bus station
An £804m plan which aims to dramatically transform bus services across the North East has moved to the next stage.
Government funding will now be sought for the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) approved at a meeting of the North East Joint Transport Committee.
The revolutionary project promises cheaper fares, more regular and reliable services across the region, more environmentally-friendly fleets, and long-awaited London-style payments that will allow millions of passengers seamless travel across bus, Metro, rail, and ferry.
A new bus station in Alnwick has also been outlined as one of the BSIP aspirations.
This BSIP is the latest step towards a new ‘enhanced partnership’ between local councils and bus operators – a formal agreement demanded by the government in order to give the North East access to a £3billion levelling up fund for bus services.
The bid to the Government includes a £124million ask to prop up existing bus services amid shortfalls caused by the Covid crisis, with bosses saying they hope the “significant upgrades” will see passenger numbers return to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023 and then grow by 10% each year after.
A joint statement on behalf of local leaders, including Cllr Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council, and North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll, said: “Our region can achieve great things when we work together and we are delighted to unveil our region’s Bus Service Improvement Plan which will be transformative for local people.
"Local authorities have worked in partnership with local bus operators to produce an ambitious plan for our bus services – an £804 million funding bid which we hope will enable us to deliver transformational change for local people. We want to deliver a truly modern, sustainable public transport system that we can all be proud of.
“Buses are hugely important to our region and our people. For many, the bus is their main mode of transport and it is imperative that we increase use of green, sustainable transport in order to avoid a car-dominated recovery from the pandemic.
“The pandemic has put our public transport network under strain and, as a direct result of Covid-19, passenger levels are below where they should be. The North East needs the major investment set out in the BSIP from Government to underpin a dramatic res-set of our bus network if we are to deliver on our climate change and economic goals.
“We are determined to make it easier for people to use the bus more often when they can and we must lower carbon emissions region-wide. By delivering the plans outlined in the BSIP, we will improve our air quality and encourage more people to travel in a sustainable way.
“We are united in our goal to reform our region’s bus network and make bus travel more attractive, customer friendly, reliable and affordable. To do this, we must be bold and address the balance of our network. Some of our infrastructure and policies will need to pivot to embrace this change and with that will come greater use of public transport.
“We hope the Government sees our BSIP as a wonderful opportunity to invest in the North East.”
The North East BSIP is the region’s response to the Government’s National Bus Strategy for England which was published in March.