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Cheshire East’s ambitious plan to transform bus services

Cheshire East Transport Infrastructure 11/8/2021 12:00:00 AM

Cheshire East Bus Service Improvement Plan sets out proposal

Cheshire East Council has drawn up ambitious plans to transform bus services across the borough.

The Cheshire East Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) sets out proposals to work with local communities, public transport users and local bus operators to boost services and develop transformational change across the network.

The plan seeks to deliver better quality, more reliable and more frequent buses, with simpler, integrated ticketing between bus routes and other public transport. It will also build on the success of the council’s existing Flexilink service as well as its recently-launched ‘go-too’ demand-responsive bus service.

The document has now been submitted to the Department of Transport in a bid to secure funding through the government’s national bus strategy ‘Bus Back Better’.

Councillor Craig Browne, chair of Cheshire East Council’s highways and transport committee, said: “This is an ambitious plan and improving the speed, reliability and quality of public transport would help encourage more residents to choose the bus, make fewer car journeys and contribute to our carbon reduction commitments.”

The BSIP focuses on three phases:

  • Phase one: Stabilisation of the bus network (2021-23) – improving reliability and punctuality, simplifying fares and improving integration of public transport; 
  • Phase two: Improving quality (2022-25 and beyond to 2030) – including more frequent services, better access and information and improved value for money; and
  • Phase three: Network growth (2023-25 and beyond to 2030) – making bus use more attractive, such as via investment in bus/rail interchanges and multi-modal ticketing.

Councillor Laura Crane, chair of the members’ advisory panel on the BSIP, said: “The bus network in Cheshire East is facing a number of challenges due to a long-term structural decline in passengers – including a 24 per cent fall in passenger journeys since 2011 – compounded by recent loss of custom during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Use of buses could take some time to recover, as passengers need to be confident that using bus services will provide the reliable, safe and cost-effective transport that they expect. 

“We need a bus service that works for our residents – a more reliable, more user-friendly and greener service to ensure that bus travel does not become a thing of the past.”

The next key stage is preparation of a new statutory ‘enhanced partnership agreement’ with bus operators, which is due to be completed in April 2022.