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Petitions

Volume 735: debated on Wednesday 28 June 2023

Petition

Wednesday 28 June 2023

Observations

Transport

Bus Services in North Shropshire

The petition of residents of North Shropshire,

Declares that residents are concerned by the poor bus services in North Shropshire; express their frustration at struggling to use public transport to travel to key amenities like hospitals and schools; convey their difficulties in securing work opportunities due to lack of transport connections; and note that currently only one bus service operates on Sundays throughout the constituency.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to take their concerns into account and act to ensure that bus connections are available to the residents of North Shropshire seven days per week, connecting local villages and towns.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Helen Morgan, Official Report, 13 June 2023; Vol. 734, c. 268.]

[P002837]

Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Richard Holden):

The Government recognise the importance of bus services in ensuring communities can stay connected and access work, education and vital services such as healthcare. The Government also recognise that the sector is currently facing a number of challenges, including lower levels of patronage, and that this is having an impact on bus services.

On 17 May, the Department for Transport announced a long-term approach to support and improve bus services with an additional £300 million to support services from July 2023 until April 2025. This funding will provide the certainty that the sector needs to deliver sustainable networks that better reflect the needs of those who rely on bus services every day and builds on the more than £2 billion in emergency and recovery funding that the Government have provided since March 2020 to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. Of this funding, Shropshire County Council will receive £1,490,492 in 2023-24 under the bus service improvement plan-plus mechanism. As part of this additional funding, flexibility surrounding the use of the funding was extended as a means to support existing services. The Department expects any local authority that wishes to make use of this new flexibility to carefully consider and confirm whether supporting existing routes would provide better value for money compared to their previous plans, and whether the routes they wish to support are likely to become sustainable in the longer term.

On 17 May, the Department for Transport also announced the extension of the bus fare cap scheme at £2 for a further four months from 1 July until 31 October to continue to encourage people back on to the bus, while saving passengers money during difficult economic times. This will then be followed by a longer-term fare cap of £2.50 from 1 November 2023 to 30 November 2024. We will also undertake a review of bus fares at the end of the £2.50 fare cap, to determine how best to support the sector in moving to a sustainable footing.

The Government are supportive of new forms of bus provision in areas that are currently not adequately served by conventional timetabled buses. Demand responsive transport is one such tool available for improving local bus service provision, including as a means of improving evening and weekend services, and providing access to services, education and sites of employment. The Government note that Shropshire Council is introducing a pilot demand responsive transport service around Shrewsbury later this year, with a view to potential extensions into other parts of the county.