The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) has recently undertaken and completed a public consultation to decide new ways to fund bus improvement within the area. The CPCA have approved a tripling of the mayoral precept with an increase equivalent to £12 - £36 per year for council tax band D properties. The CPCA received 450 responses to their consultation from residents, of which 52% were in favour of the £36 precept, with 70% of those responses in favour of paying more council tax for better bus services.
Part of the improvement package includes orbital routes from Cambridge and Peterborough and 3 new demand-responsive transport schemes, as well as reduced bus fares for under 25-year-olds, which will hopefully answer the needs of those bus users in the area of this mayoral combined authority. In addition to this funding package, the CPCA has previously published notice as required under section 123B and 123C of the Transport Act 2000 that it is currently preparing an assessment of a proposed bus franchising scheme to bring private operations back under public control. This suggests that there are more consultations about bus reform to come for those in the CPCA area.
With regards to the funding package announced, Managing Director of Stagecoach East, Darren Roe, has been quoted saying “This is another great initiative for our customers. We welcome these improvements to the network and are working with the Combined Authority to understand the detail.
“The Mayor is keen to introduce a £1 fare for under-25s. We will very much need to see the detail of this and understand how the scheme will work in practice – for example, it will need some form of ID card and there are important questions around what the new timetables will look like, so we can then figure out how many drivers and vehicles will be required.
But, in general we are very supportive of all such initiatives to encourage increased bus usage.”
There are some concerns surrounding congestion within the CPCA area, congestion and bus priority being a consistent and hotly debated topic when it comes to bus franchising and proper management of bus networks. Mr Roe himself says, “Congestion inevitably leads to customers’ frustrations that journey times are extended and services cancelled, and this is a daunting challenge for all the elected officials to deal with, but those difficult decisions will need to be taken.”
The underlying message appears to be that funding packages are welcome; however, the proper implementation of those packages and the measures they promote require close scrutiny, and in all cases, changes need to be made to tackle the difficulty posed by congestion in city centres in obstructing an efficient bus network.