Bus service operators are consulting on proposed changes to some services in St Helens – including reductions to some services and the complete scrapping of others. Have your say now before 10th July: https://lcrbusreview.commonplace.is/
Councillor Andy Bowden, Cabinet member for Environment and Transport, says: “These latest bus service reductions proposed by the operators – which are out of the council and City Region control – will have a negative impact on bus users in the borough. The changes are also contrary to our ambitions to encourage residents to use buses to reduce carbon emissions and support town centre regeneration.
“The latest cuts provide further justification for the decision taken by Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority in March to work towards reversing the industry’s deregulation in the 1980s.
“Bus franchising would allow the combined authority to specify the bus network, set fares and control fare policy, and would also give the authority control over when and where buses operate in the interests of users – rather than leaving service and network decisions to private operators, who currently have the power to withdraw bus routes, as their latest actions demonstrates.
“In the meantime, however, we should not simply accept the latest service reductions proposed by operators as buses provide many people with a vital lifeline that connects them with work and opportunity, friends and family and much more. Working with council officers and my colleagues on the Liverpool City Region Transport Committee, I will be making the strongest representations against the proposals, and I would urge all St Helens residents who will be affected to respond to the consultation in a bid reverse these planned service cuts.”
At its meeting on 10th June, the Combined Authority – made up of the Leaders and Mayors from St Helens, Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, and Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram – heard that bus services were facing significant challenges due to reduced passenger numbers post-Covid and government funding failures.
In March 2021 government announced £3 billion investment for bus services outside of London, and invited transport authorities – including the City Region through Merseytravel – to submit bids in the form of a Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP). Our City Region submitted a bid for £667m – however in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement later that year he announced that there would be just £1.2bn available, and not £3bn as promised. Ultimately, we were given just £12.2m, which will be used for fare reductions and other ticketing initiatives (see https://www.liverpoolcityregion-ca.gov.uk/mayor-to-accelerate-regions-london-style-bus-revolution-with-2-fares/).
The Combined Authority report – available here at item 12 – stated:
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the delivery of bus services. Throughout the pandemic the bus industry has received government funding to help mitigate revenue losses and ensure a continued level of service provision. The majority of this funding has been paid directly to bus operators, with some funding allocated to transport authorities to help maintain supported bus networks. Additionally, transport authorities were asked by Government to maintain higher levels of concessionary reimbursement as part of this funding mix.
As the country emerges from the pandemic, the Government has indicated that it will not provide additional funding to either bus operators or transport authorities beyond October 2022. This is despite bus services not returning to pre-pandemic levels of usage.
In response to the withdrawal of funding along with a combination of a number of factors including lower levels of ridership than before the pandemic, inflationary cost pressures and a challenging labour market it is expected that bus operators will take measures to reduce costs to support the sustainability of their businesses. In line with funding conditions and the Bus Alliance agreement, any changes will be subject to passenger and stakeholder consultation before any final decisions are taken. It is anticipated that a revised network would be introduced on the agreed Autumn network change date of 4th September 2022.”
It is these ‘revised network’ proposals which are now out for public consultation. Have your say now!