Conservative led Wiltshire Council has submitted its plan to the Government to improve bus services and increase usage throughout the county.
This is part of the Government's National Bus Strategy for England that, in February 2020, confirmed £5bn of new funding to overhaul bus and cycle links for every region outside of London.
Through its Bus Service Improvement Plan, the council has outlined its ambition on how it will spend allocated funding. This includes providing more subsidised services, enhanced infrastructure, simplified ticketing and bus priority throughout the county, and offering an improved flexible demand responsive bus network in the Pewsey Vale area.
The council's final improvement plan can be found at Bus Service Improvement Plan webpage.
The plan will help ensure that more people will have easier access to their place of work and will subsequently support the local economy, particularly after the last challenging 20 months. Better bus services will provide increased provision and options for travel to shoppers accessing local centres, which will help to facilitate the growth set out in the Wiltshire Core Strategy. In turn, a better overall bus service will give people more public transport options, while also benefiting the council's carbon neutral ambitions.
Conservative Cllr Dr Mark McClelland, Cabinet Member for Transport, said:
We're pleased to have submitted our plan to Government, which we believe is both ambitious and realistic.
Good public transport links are vital for the success and prosperity of our communities, allowing access to our towns and city, our schools and colleges, our places of work and our leisure opportunities. Buses hold together our society and make our council services accessible to the residents of Wiltshire.
We need a better bus network, one that takes people where they want to be, at the times they want to travel. We need a joined-up bus network across our county, where tickets are interchangeable between operators, where buses meet trains, and where journey times and reliability are improved through imaginative bus priority schemes.
In partnership with our bus operators we aim to make public transport a more attractive option for our residents. We look forward to sharing more information with residents and stakeholders, as their input will continue to be vital to making our plan a reality and a success.
In March 2020, Government granted Wiltshire £671,000 as revenue support to help to improve the provision of local bus services, and the council liaised with stakeholders to establish what the money could be spent on. As a result, a number of bus improvement areas have been proposed in locations including, Chippenham, Calne, Cricklade, Purton, Royal Wootton Bassett, Malmesbury, Trowbridge, Melksham, Bradford on Avon, Westbury, Warminster, Seend, Marlborough, Tidworth, Devizes, Salisbury, Amesbury, and Ludgershall.
The council also successfully bid for £1.2m to enhance the demand responsive transport (DRT) bus service in the Pewsey Vale. The design and development of the additional services, and how they interact with the existing bus services in the area will be strongly influenced by the local community, so that the service attracts new users. The aim is for the enhanced DRT service to be available from summer 2022.
To help inform its plan, the council asked local people and representatives from businesses and organisations to complete a short survey to help establish where current bus services are working, where it could be improved and where it simply doesn't provide what is needed. More than 2,100 people responded. Almost 90% of people who responded said that they would expect to use bus services at the same level as before the pandemic. The majority of people who responded said that more frequent buses, more buses on a Sunday, and real-time bus service information would help enhance the service.
More information about the Government's Bus Back Better can be found at Government Bus Back Better webpage.