Much needed transport funding to support town and city centres

Published 19 March 2021
Last updated 19 March 2021

The High Streets Task Force warmly welcomes new government funding for buses and bus services.

Buses have an essential contribution to make in supporting the sustainability of the high street. They are a key strand of town and city centre accessibility, which has been identified by Task Force lead partners, IPM, as directly linked to visitor numbers and the vitality and viability of town centres.

However, over the past decade bus usage has declined with the market focused on a smaller number of high-intensity users and differing levels of bus provision across regions. Bus companies are unable to respond quickly to change routes or times resulting from falling passenger journeys. However, the future viability of our town and city centres is very dependent on this flexibility being possible.

The Government will invest a total of £3 billion in its 'Bus Back Better' strategy, to improve, increase and simplify services, and to support a transition to emission-free electric or hydrogen fueled bus travel. In the immediate term, £25m will be made available for Bus Service Improvement Plans created by local transport authorities and local operators and partners.

Many of the High Streets Task Force partner organisations have been making the case for investment in bus travel for some time, and Task Force Executive Director, Simon Quin, spoke alongside the Managing Directors of Arriva and Stagecoach at the CPT UK conference earlier this year.

There is a lot of innovation in the industry, with passengers wanting to pick up a bus in their immediate neighbourhood and at a time that suits them. Electric buses are much more welcome in urban locations. We are also seeing many smaller buses built being built as “hoppas”.

Simon Quin said:

“This investment will take time to come through, but it is ambitious. We think it will benefit smaller towns which have seen the impact of COVID driving local use. It will particularly help in rural areas. This will also drive the evening economy in these towns. We are delighted to see this announcement and thank the government for bringing new insight to the industry.”