Opportunity for communities to feed into updated Bus Service Improvement Plans

Local authorities are being tasked with updating their Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIP) for 2024 and beyond, in partnership with bus operators and community groups, including potentially community rail.

All 80 local transport authorities (LTAs) outside of London have been given new guidance to ‘refresh and update’ their BSIP documents, which is a prerequisite to receiving a share of the £160m BSIP Phase 2 funding pot announced by the DfT last year.

A BSIP is a public document published on the LTA’s website, intended to set out clearly the vision and plan for improving bus services and growing bus patronage in the local area, in line with the National Bus Strategy (NBS). They were originally drawn up and published alongside the strategy in 2021, but now every LTA is being asked to produce and submit a 2024 BSIP by June this year to secure the release of its BSIP funding for 2024/25.

The DfT guidance states that the three key themes for the 2024 BSIPs are to update baseline data to 2023/24, set out a 2024/25 programme, and to get ready for 2025 and beyond.

The purpose of the BSIP document is:

• to describe the bus network as it currently is, and the vision for the improved bus service that the LTA (in consultation with operators and others) wants to see in the BSIP area;

• to set out how the LTA will achieve the objectives of the NBS, including the key objective of growing bus patronage, in its specific local context;

• to set out a detailed plan for delivery of the above that is aligned with the rest of the LTA’s Local Transport Plan.

It is a requirement that BSIPs should be produced in close consultation with bus operators and relevant other stakeholders, including community-based groups. Refreshing BSIPs therefore offers a potential opportunity for community rail partnerships and groups to engage with their local authority transport officers about how they may be able to help and advise as LTAs work to meet the updated requirements over the coming months.

Rail is referenced directly on several occasions in the template guidance being offered to LTAs as to how their BSIPs might be updated and improved. These references include:

Section 1 – Our bus vision;

Under the vision of growing bus patronage and modal share, one of the key goals is to make sure buses are ‘better integrated with other modes and each other, including more bus-rail interchange and integration and inter-bus transfers.

Section 4: Ambitions and proposals for 2025 and beyond;

Under the section outlining ambitions and proposals for ticketing, the guidance states: “BSIPs should set out ambitions at the local level to deliver multi-operator or inter-operable tickets and price caps and where appropriate, how this could be expanded to tickets that cover other transport modes, including light rail and rail. In the longer-term we would like to see the roll-out of smart, multi-modal ticketing on a place-by-place basis in areas where multi-modal journeys take place (and it is applicable), with multi-operator ticketing a key milestone to achieving this goal. BSIPs should support this vision.”

This section also indicates support for the provision of multi-modal travel ‘hubs’, with railway stations cited as ideal sites to boost transport integration. The guidance states ‘BSIPs should set out prioritised ambitions and proposals to improve the integrated transport offer and passenger experience at key interchanges including travel hubs, bus stations and rail stations.’

You should be able to access your local BSIP on the relevant LTA website, and you can view the updated BSIP guidance here.