On 15 March 2021, ‘Bus Back Better: The National Bus Strategy’ was published by the Department for Transport. The strategy sets out the Government’s vision for bus services outside of London, with cheaper and simpler fares, quicker and more reliable journeys and improvements to timetables all promised. £3 billion has been allocated by Government to help drive these outcomes.
The national strategy requires local authorities across the UK to formalise partnerships with bus operators in the form of an Enhanced Partnership (EP) by April 2022, unless they have already started a statutory process to develop a franchising arrangement.
The North East Joint Transport Committee has given approval to proceed with preparing an EP Plan and Schemes with local bus operators, NEbus, and the project is ongoing.
An EP is where local transport authorities and bus operators agree a detailed partnership plan (a Bus Service Improvement Plan) that is refined through consultation. A series of partnership schemes are built into the final agreed EP plan.
An enhanced bus network is key to achieving our aim of creating a green, healthy, dynamic and thriving North East. Buses are integral to achieving economic growth. Our vision will help people make greener and healthier travel choices, creating a network that can take everyone where they need to go for work, education, healthcare, shopping or other leisure activities at a price they can afford.
Notice of Intent to Prepare an Enhanced Partnership Plan and Schemes
At its meeting on 15th June 2021, the North East Joint Transport Committee gave approval to proceed with the development of an Enhanced Partnership. The commencement of this is confirmed through this notice of the intention to prepare an Enhanced Partnership Plan and accompanying Enhanced Partnership Schemes, as required and set out in section 138F of the Transport Act 2000.
The Proposed Scheme as currently envisaged will cover the local government administrative areas of Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle upon Tyne, Gateshead, South Tyneside, Durham and Sunderland. All operators of registered local bus services which operate within the proposed area will be invited to participate in the development and delivery of the Enhanced Bus Partnership.
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Signed: Mike Barker
Dated: 28th June 2021
For and on behalf of the North East Joint Transport Committee
Operators Objection period
The operators’ objection period closed on the 19 January 2022 with no objections received.
The Department for Transport have since given updated timescales for the introduction of an Enhanced Partnership, following this notice the Joint Transport Committee have decided to postpone the start of the statutory consultation.
The Transport North East team are now working towards submitting a draft Enhanced Partnership Plan and Scheme for the end of April 2022.
Bus Service Improvement Plan
The region’s first Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) has unveiled a new £804 million bid to Government which transport leaders are confident will dramatically transform bus services across the North East.
The BSIP outlines region-wide ambitions to make buses more attractive by making them an affordable and practical alternative to using private cars for more people and helping existing bus users to travel more frequently. The ambitious plan aims to return bus ridership – currently 25% lower than before the pandemic – to pre-Covid levels by the end of the next financial year and to grow by 10% each year thereafter. This would provide a major economic boost to the region, reduce road congestion, and contribute towards climate change targets.
The numerous measures proposed include improvements to timetables and fares, extensive priority measures on roads and at junctions to speed buses up – including two new Park & Ride sites, new and attractive waiting facilities, a set of affordable fare “caps” that work across all buses and Metro services, lower fares for many young people and simplified and improved information.
The North East BSIP is the region’s response to the Government’s National Bus Strategy for England which was published in March 2021.
The North East BSIP was approved by the North East Joint Transport Committee on 26 October 2021.