How community rail can work with local authorities new bus requirements
The new National Bus Strategy for England, launched on 15 March, presents an opportunity for local authorities to engage with communities and local partners towards more joined-up sustainable transport networks. This is an ideal time for community rail partnerships and groups to talk to your local authorities’ transport officers about how you may be able to help and advise as they work to meet the new requirements over the coming months.
One of the most significant of the new requirements is the Bus Service Improvement Plan which every local authority has to produce and must be “driven by what passengers and would-be passengers want in their area.” These plans must be published by the end of October 2021, updated annually and reflected in the authority’s Local Transport Plan. They need to be developed in collaboration with operators, community transport providers and, critically, the local community, including residents and businesses, with a significant focus on driving improvements and integration.
Within the Bus Service Improvement Plan, the Department for Transport sets out six requirements including targets for passenger growth and satisfaction; plans for simplified and integrated ticketing; the safety and accessibility of bus stops and stations; access to schools, health, social care and employment; and taking into account the views of local people.
The final requirement is a Bus Passenger Charter setting out what passengers can expect from their services, particularly in terms of accessibility, punctuality, cleanliness, information and redress. The issue of redress is a vital component and to ensure standards are met, local authorities are also required to set up some form of Bus Advisory Board.
Local authorities are under time pressure to meet these requirements, so may be appreciative of community rail’s expertise on local transport use, views and integration, and its local community links.
One of Community Rail Network’s partners on the Sustainable Transport Alliance, Bus Users, is keen to support local authorities, operators and community partners in meeting these requirements, such as by sharing examples and good practice, and running local engagement events. In areas where Bus Users is already planning local events, Community Rail Network will put them in touch with members in their area. If you or your local authority partners would like more information on how Bus Users can help, please contact them on NBShelp@bususers.org.