Oxfordshire County Council makes ambitious bid for investment to get people back on the buses

Oxfordshire County Council has called on the government to provide the necessary funding required to get people out of their cars and on to buses.

Sunday, 24th October 2021, 3:47 pm
Updated Sunday, 24th October 2021, 3:48 pm
A bus travelling through the Banbury town centre

The council’s cabinet has backed a bid to secure £56 million from the government’s £3 billion National Bus Strategy fund.

Passenger numbers in Oxfordshire, which had been in decline between 2014 and 2019, were badly hit by the impact of the pandemic and investment is needed, not just to reverse this trend but to transform the Oxfordshire bus offer.

Cllr Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for highways management, said: “Public transport is key to tackling the congestion that so often affects the county, in particular Oxford and its fragile infrastructure. Every motorist who is not on a bus is in front of a bus in their car. If we can get people who are able to take the bus to do so, then the buses will be quicker, more efficient, more reliable and, ultimately, cheaper.

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“That is why we are calling on the government to recognise our ambition to encourage people back on to Oxfordshire’s buses. The aims of the National Bus Strategy align closely with our own, including investing in an inclusive, integrated and sustainable transport network, tackling inequality, and addressing the climate change emergency.”

The council is finalising its Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP), which the public was invited to contribute to, and will submit it to the government later this month to bid for the funding.

The ambitions for buses cover: new bus priority measures to speed up journeys, more attractive fares and ticketing, including a review of fares for under 19s and potential discounts for lower-wage NHS employees, vehicles that are more comfortable and greener, improved information for passengers, better bus stop infrastructure, creating mobility hubs at key locations to provide better interchange between different modes of transport, new rural bus routes and the restoration of some cross-boundary bus services to neighbouring counties.

In June, the council agreed to establish an Enhanced Partnership and invited all of Oxfordshire’s local bus operators to form closer joint working arrangements between the local authority and the providers.

The National Bus Strategy wants to see more people using more attractive bus services through revisions to fares, routes, hours of operation and availability of information, and to see improvements to reliability, punctuality, and journey speeds.