Regional transport leaders have launched the Big Bus Conversation – a new region-wide campaign to gather feedback ahead of a bid to access a national £3bn funding pot with the aim of persuading people to switch sustainably to the bus.
Following the publication of the government’s ‘Bus Back Better’ National Bus Strategy in March this year, local authorities and bus operators are working together to move towards a formal bus partnership which aims to breathe new life into the network.
A major project is now underway to create an Enhanced Partnership (EP) for the North East and senior transport leaders are asking for the public to get involved, have their say and help the region secure future funding for the bus network.
The North East Joint Transport Committee with NEbus, the local bus operators association, have created ‘Your Vision for Buses’, a document which sets out initial aspirations for the bus network. Stakeholders, including the public, regional businesses and community organisations are being asked to share their views on these ambitions and what they would like to see.
Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee, said: “Buses are hugely important to our region with over 162 million journeys each year. Delivering an Enhanced Partnership is critical to the long-term security of our region’s bus network as future funding from government requires a formal partnership to be in place by April 2022. It will also help us to deliver many improvements to make the network better, more efficient and user-friendly for passengers.
“We need the North East to help us revitalise the network and access future funding. As part of the Big Bus Conversation, we want to know what people across the region want to see from our bus network, how we can improve things to make it work better for them, and what we can do to get people out of the car and onto clean, sustainable public transport.
“We’ve set out some initial aspirations in Your Vision for Buses, but we want to hear form the public. What do you want to see, do these aspirations go far enough? Do you have a good idea on how to improve things and encourage people back onto the bus – we want to hear suggestions big and small as part of this process.”
Martijn Gilbert, Chair of NEbus, the local bus operators association, said: “We have an exciting opportunity to deliver a transformational bus network as part National Bus Strategy, adapting to new changes in travel demands and helping to support our towns and cities, as well as delivering important improvements to air quality.
“We want the voice of the community to help shape these plans, and the big bus conversation is being supporting by our Local Authorities and Bus operators to engage with everyone, regardless of if you currently use the bus or not, to help us draw up plans that everyone can benefit from and make us a better connected, greener and more successful region to live and work in.”
The Big Bus Conversation will gather feedback from stakeholders across the North East ahead of the production of the Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) which will be submitted to the Department for
Transport in October. The BSIP sets out proposed plans for the EP, a formal partnership agreement between local authorities and bus operators which outlines how the network will look, feel and operate in the future.
To find out more about the Big Bus Conversation or submit your feedback or suggestions visit www.transportnortheast.gov.uk/bigbusconversation before 10 September.