Central government cash for buses in England outside London could exceed the £3bn pledged in the Government’s new Bus Strategy, it has emerged.
The strategy, Bus Back Better, repeats a pledge, first announced in February last year, of £3bn to ‘level up buses across England towards London standards’.
Previous DfT strategies with significant headline cash announcements, for example the ‘£2bn’ 2017 Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, have included anticipated allocations from other funding streams such as the Local Growth Fund (LGF).
However, the Department for Transport has told Transport Network that the money is ‘additional to’ two other funds that could pay for bus infrastructure and services - the Transforming Cities Fund and Levelling-up Fund.
Paul Tuohy, chief executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: ‘Funding for bus infrastructure is good news. The Government, which has been supportive of the bus industry over the last year, also has a duty to make sure that we build back green as we come out of the virus-induced restrictions.
‘It has rightly recognised that more bus lanes and priority traffic lights are needed to make it easier for the bus to make good progress through our urban areas.’
The strategy document states that the bulk of the funding will come from 2022 onwards, but spending in 2021/22 will include ‘at least £300m’ to support the sector recover from the pandemic, £120m for zero emission buses, and an unspecified amount for ‘bus priority schemes to speed up journeys’.
According to its prospectus, the £4.8bn Levelling-up Fund, a successor to the LGF, will allocate £600m in 2021/22 for a range of projects, including public transport and bus priority lanes.
The Transforming Cities Fund runs until the end of 2022/23, providing city regions with a total of £1.28bn to drive up productivity through improved connections between urban centres and suburbs and a further £1.1bn for mayoral combined authorities. Almost £1bn of the funding for city regions will be allocated in the 2021/22 and 2022/23 financial years.
In September 2020, it was announced that Portsmouth city region had been awarded £56m from the Transforming Cities Fund for projects including bus station redevelopments and bus lanes.
However, plans for five-year consolidated funding settlements for eight city regions at a cost of £4.2bn build on the Transforming Cities Fund but do not include the other areas that currently are benefiting from the fund.