New funding for supported bus services
Lancashire County Council has been successful in securing additional funding for its supported bus services from the Department of Transport's 'A better deal for bus users' announcement in February. This funding was made available to improve current supported bus services and/or restore lost services where needed.
Whilst it has been advised against travelling on public transport unless absolutely necessary during the current COVID-19 pandemic, bus operators are continuing to operate services that enables key workers, and those needing to travel, to access employment and essential amenities. The county council's supported bus service network is currently operating to a Saturday timetable, although this is planned to return to normal service from 1 June 2020.
With the phased release of lockdown measures, and the current advice to only use where absolutely necessary, bus services will still play a vital part in keeping people connected and being able to access local amenities, employment, health and education in the future.
Taking into consideration a number of outstanding requests for bus services, received from residents, local councillors and MPs across the county as well as building on the enhanced service provision since the council's investment in bus services in December 2017, we submitted to the DfT a number of proposals for consideration for the available funding.
This new funding will tie in with the council's budget commitment in February to invest additional money into bus services over the coming years and will be aimed at continuing to deliver a tendered bus service network that complements and supports the commercial bus service network.
We have continued with our identified priorities to sustainably link communities, particularly in rural areas where many people rely on public transport services, and to increase the frequency of a number of services where there is most demand, developing more sustainable and attractive services for the future.
It is recognised sustainably funding every conceivable public transport need is not possible, therefore providing better services in accordance with the identified priorities will be a key element of any funding commitments going forward.
Our funding submission to the DfT was based on improving and extending current supported bus services, restoring lost services and supporting new bus services. With confirmation from the DfT, it is intended this new funding will be used as follows:
To restore a Sunday and Bank Holiday daytime service on Lancaster City local routes, linking The Vale, The Marsh, The Ridge and Lancaster East estates with the City Centre.
To restore a Sunday and Bank Holiday daytime service between Lancaster and Kirkby Lonsdale through the Lune Valley.
Wyre and Fylde
To introduce a Monday to Saturday daytime service link between Fleetwood, Poulton and Staining. This would restore a direct link between Fleetwood and Poulton as well as incorporating local resident's requests for a link between Staining and Poulton. The allocation would be used to match S106 Developer funding secured through the planning process available to kick-start the whole new service.
Chorley and South Ribble
To strengthen and extend the existing Monday to Saturday daytime Service 119 between Chorley and Astley Village extending the service through to Leyland and restore links for the unserved parts of Buckshaw Village as well as reconnecting a direct bus service to Chorley Hospital from throughout the whole extended route.
Preston, South Ribble and West Lancashire
To restore a Sunday and Bank Holiday daytime service between Preston and Ormskirk via Tarleton.
To support the weekend daytime Service 300 between Liverpool, Haskayne, Halsall and Southport. This routes through the western rural communities of West Lancashire linking with Southport and Liverpool.
Preston, Ribble Valley and Pendle
To strengthen the existing Monday to Saturday daytime Service 280 link between Clitheroe, Gisburn, Barnoldswick, Earby and Skipton, increasing the frequency from two hourly to hourly on this section and to restore a Sunday and Bank Holiday daytime service throughout the whole route between Preston, Clitheroe and Skipton.
Ribble Valley and Hyndburn
To restore a Monday to Saturday daytime service link between Clitheroe, Whalley, Great Harwood, Rishton, Accrington, Oswaldtwistle and Royal Blackburn Hospital.
Burnley, Hyndburn and Rossendale
To restore a Sunday and Bank Holiday daytime service between Rawtenstall, Water & Burnley and Rawtenstall, Haslingden & Blackburn.
To restore a Monday to Saturday daytime service link between Rawtenstall and Bolton. This was a joint submission in partnership with Transport for Greater Manchester.
To support the continued operation of the Monday to Saturday daytime service link from Accrington, Haslingden, Ramsbottom and Manchester. This will help retain the direct bus service link between Hyndburn and parts of Rossendale to Manchester City Centre, whilst a promotion and awareness campaign is undertaken to restore commercial viability of the route. This was a joint submission in partnership with Transport for Greater Manchester.
It was originally intended to begin introducing these improvements during May, however with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now targeting from 19 July 2020 but this may be also subject to any COVID-19 restrictions. Full details of these service improvements and how they tie in with existing tendered bus services will be available once they are finalised in the coming weeks.
It is now intended the duration to which all the funding will be utilised is between July 2020 and summer 2021, dependant on COVID-19 restrictions, social distancing measures and patronage. This allows time to properly procure and evaluate some of the service improvements to ensure the allocated funding is used to provide maximum benefit to local residents as well as tie in with the county council's existing budget provision for supported bus services.