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Rural Bus Services

Volume 717: debated on Thursday 30 June 2022

3. What steps he is taking to ensure the provision of bus services to rural areas that have not been successful in securing funding following the submission of a bus service improvement plan. (900809)

We have contacted all local authorities not receiving immediate BSIP funding and are working with them to help improve their local bus services.

The Dorset BSIP has returned no investment to rural Dorset. In the light of that, will the Minister consider giving Dorset Council the power to run its own services? Will she also consider enabling journeys using concessionary bus passes to attract the full commercial value of that journey to the operator?

I thank my hon. Friend for his determination to secure better bus services in West Dorset. In our national bus strategy, we committed to reviewing the annual concession reimbursement guidance and calculator that he refers to. I reassure him that we will continue to fund the practical support to develop enhanced partnerships. I know he has frequent meetings with my noble Friend in the other place, Baroness Vere, in which he will be able to discuss his specific question further.

As the Prime Minister apparently contemplates a third term, we on Tyneside are left facing bus fare rises and reduced services. I will ask the question I have asked many times before but have still to receive an answer to: when can we on Tyneside expect to see our bus fares levelled down to those in London, at £1.65 to cross the entire metropolitan area?

I have written to the hon. Lady with specific information. At the October 2021 spending review, the Department announced £1.1 billion of dedicated funding for BSIPs, which is part of the £3 billion new spend on buses over the Parliament.

I apologise to the Secretary of State, but what he has said raises even bigger questions about what he has been doing with his time.

From near-record delays on railways, mile-long tailbacks at Dover, disruption at airports and the first national strike in three decades, everything this Transport Secretary is responsible for is falling apart, and now so is his promise on buses. From October, when the covid funding runs out, there will be four buses across the whole of South Yorkshire after 10 pm. That is four buses for more than 1.3 million people. That is not levelling up, is it? It is managed decline.

To date, the Government have made available more than £2 billion of support through emergency and recovery grants since March 2020 to mitigate the impact of the pandemic for bus and light rail services. Those measures are in addition to the £200 million provided annually directly to commercial operators to keep the fares down and to run an extensive network through the bus service operators grant.