The future is suddenly starting to look a lot brighter for bus services in Somerset.
Over the past decade, public transport has not been an economic and developmental priority for Somerset County Council. Residents of this large, mainly rural county have been encouraged to rely on cars to get them to work as well as to shops, hospitals and places of entertainment and bus travel has dwindled accordingly. Bus journeys in the County have fallen by 43 per cent over the past decade, we now have the second lowest bus journeys per head in the country and our bus services have the lowest satisfaction score.
But the Government’s Bus Back Better strategy has prompted a major rethink with £3 billion of funding for bus improvements to be shared out between transport authorities across England (outside of London). Somerset County Council has responded and developed a highly ambitious Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) and is asking the Government to fund the Somerset BSIP with an eye watering £163 million grant. You can read the Somerset BSIPdocument that Somerset has submitted justifying this bid.
Even if the full amount of the Somerset bid is not granted, it is a recognition by Somerset County Council that its bus services need major improvement. Transport is the biggest emitter of carbon emissions in Somerset accounting for 44.1% of Somerset’s total emissions. Given COP26, we must now make sure Somerset pursues the initiatives outlined in the Somerset Bus Service Improvement Plan that encourage a switch to public transport and away from single occupancy private cars. This will reduce our carbon footprint.
Somerset Bus Partnership was set up so that the voices of bus users from across Somerset are heard. We now have over 80 ‘bus representatives’ from all parts of the county who ensure we understand and reflect the needs of towns and parishes across the county.
We are looking for extra support within the Somerset Bus Partnership’s core team. Have you had management experience of the bus industry or in a transport department within a Council? Please do get in touch if you have.
Somerset is now entering into an Enhanced Partnership with local bus service operators to implement the Somerset Bus Service Improvement Plan. Somerset Bus Partnership has been invited to attend the launch of the Bus Advisory Board in late November. This is Somerset’s first step in establishing a partnership arrangement with local bus companies.
Somerset Bus Partnership will continue to work with bus users and will hold Somerset County Council to the ambitious and worthy goals now espoused in the Somerset Bus Improvement Plan.
Co Chair – Somerset Bus Partnership