The National Bus Strategy, published on Monday 15 March, unveiled ambitious plans to revolutionise bus travel and reflects work that is already underway in the Portsmouth city region.
The government’s new strategy calls for authorities and operators to work together to ensure passengers across England benefit from more frequent, more reliable, easier to use and better coordinated bus services. Exactly what is happening in Portsmouth and south east Hampshire.
Working alongside local bus operators, authorities in the area are focussing a recent £56 million Transforming Cities Fund investment on bus priority measures to reduce journey times and improve reliability, furthering plans for rapid transit while making travelling by bus an even more attractive option.
South East Hampshire Rapid Transit is a long-established ambition between Portsmouth City Council, Hampshire County Council, Isle of Wight Council and local transport operators.
Centred on a network of bus-priority routes, South East Hampshire Rapid Transit (SEHRT) builds on the success of local rapid transit services such as the Star, Eclipse, the number 23 and 700, the improved Hard Interchange and Portsmouth Park and Ride. Objectives of SEHRT reflect the government’s aspiration to encourage more people to use the bus, rather than the car, as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Councillor Lynne Stagg, Cabinet Member for Traffic and Transport for Portsmouth City Council, said:
“There is much to be done to increase bus patronage in the area. Through recent Transforming Cities Fund investment we are able to progress with plans to improve connectivity between Portsmouth and surrounding towns. We are currently addressing congestion pinch points on key bus routes across the partnership area, providing the infrastructure needed for more reliable journeys. We will work with our partners to seek additional funding opportunities, ensuring our local bus network continues to support the vision set out in this Strategy.”
Deputy Leader of Hampshire County Council and Executive Member for Economy Transport and Environment, Councillor Rob Humby, said:
“Hampshire welcomes this Government initiative, and we are currently looking at the detail around what this means for the whole county. We will be working closely with our bus operator partners going forward.”
Councillor Ian Ward, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Transport for the Isle of Wight Council, said:
“This government initiative is very welcome. It has the potential to help our rural areas that do not normally generate sufficient demand to make bus services viable.”
South East Hampshire Rapid Transit includes transport operator partners First Bus and Stagecoach. Managing Director for First Solent Marc Reddy welcomed the national bus strategy and said:
“The national bus strategy rightly recognises the crucial role of buses right across our communities; helping boost local high streets and supporting economic recovery. Delivered through effective partnerships, the strategy, backed with £3bn in funding, should present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve bus services for customers.”
Martin Griffiths, Stagecoach Chief Executive, said:
“The new bus strategy provides an opportunity for all partners to work together to harness the huge potential of the bus to help tackle climate change, deliver better air quality in our towns and cities, secure improved mobility for local people and support a sustainable economic recovery for the country.”
The three authorities are currently working on proposals for the 23 TCF-funded schemes ahead of public consultation in the summer.